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Conflict! The very word may bring up negative images such as fighting, withdrawal, or giving yourself up, and negative feelings such as fear, anxiety, hurt, anger, and loneliness.

Yet relationship conflict offers us the most wonderful opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
It is within conflict that we are most challenged to decide who we want be. For the sake of simplicity, “partner” refers to anyone you are in a relationship with – a mate, child, parent, friend, co-worker, and so on.

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What do you generally do when a partner does something you don’t like?

  • Do you get angry and blaming, hoping to get your partner to see what he or she is doing wrong and change?
  • Do you get parental and judgmental, hoping this will bring about change?
  • Do you lecture and complain, hoping this will cause your partner to change?
  • Do you threaten your partner in some way - with financial, emotional or physical withdrawal, with violence or other forms of harm, or with exposure?
  • Do you get cold and withdrawn, hoping your partner will feel punished and come to you to find out what he or she did wrong?
  • Do you ignore the situation, swallowing your feelings, trying to keep the peace?
  • Do you keep quiet about your upset and take it out on your partner in passive aggressive ways, doing covert things that you know your partner doesn’t like?
  • Do you run to others, feeling like a victim and complaining about your partner?
  • Do you get depressed, tired or sick, hoping to get your partner to feel sorry for you? Most people do some version of one or more of the above, yet none of these choices leads to learning and resolution. All these responses do is contribute to the erosion of the relationship.

All of these responses come from the wounded self’s intention to control.
What if, instead of seeing conflict as something to avoid or as a win-lose situation, you decide to welcome it as an incredible opportunity to learn, grow and evolve your soul in love and joy? What would you then choose to do differently?

The first thing you could do is ask yourself some questions with a deep intent to learn, such as:

  • Why am I feeling upset about this situation? • What is getting triggered in me that is upsetting me?
  • What am I telling myself about this situation or about my partner that is causing me to feel upset?
  • Am I taking my partner’s behavior personally and thinking it is about me rather than about him or her?
  • Are my control issues getting activated – wanting to control and not be controlled?

In other words, instead of seeing yourself as a victim of your partner’s behavior, you would move into learning about your own feelings and thoughts rather than just reacting to your partner. Once you fully understand your own feelings, you would then go to your inner guidance for the loving action.

Loving actions might include:

  1. Simply asking your partner to change and see if your partner is willing to do so.
  2.  Moving beyond the conflict by accepting your partner’s behavior and not taking it personally.
  3. Approaching your partner with a sincere intent to learn about and understand his or her behavior, rather than trying to get your partner to change. Understanding your partner from his or her point of view may help you to not take your partner’s behavior personally.
  4. Letting your partner know that the situation is upsetting to you and asking for an open arena in which to learn with each other and resolve the conflict.
  5. If your partner is unavailable for learning and resolution, deciding how to fully take care of yourself in the face of this situation – what to say to your partner and do for yourself next time this situation arises. Then, of course, you would need to follow through and take the loving action.

Imagine how wonderful and safe you would feel if you opened to learning and taking loving action in the face of conflict!