Conflict is something that most people do everything within their power to avoid. However, most of the time, it is through conflict that we not only learn a lot about the other person we’re in a relationship with, but it is also an opportunity to learn about ourselves.
If you think about any type of relationship, it is not conflict-free, and if you really explore it, it most likely has made your dynamic stronger.
Staying at home with loved ones brings a silver lining for some of us that are able to take the time to optimize the time together, however, it is also accompanied by anxieties brought on by a massively disruptive global crisis. The majority of us are grappling with fears of illness, concerns about income, exhaustion from caretaking, and uncertainty of what the next day could bring.
If you mix those fears together with the stir-craziness of quarantine, it is enough to strain the healthiest of relationships, often leading to conflict. However, there is such a thing as healthy conflict and as a therapist, I would say that comes from the rebound.
Here’ some useful tips on how to get through conflict with loved ones, which can be used any time, but ESPECIALLY during quarantine.
Tips for Families:
If you have adolescents in the home, it is important to understand that it is developmentally appropriate for them to be in the stage where they are striving for independence, the adjustment that they have been going through, and now the loss of. When autonomy has been “taken” from us in the way that we know it to be, it can cause agitation, anger, and eventually apathy.
The frustrations of adjusting to life under the same roof without a break creates normal conflicts. Yet, when unresolved conflict from the past bubbles up and rears its head, it can be painful and hard to manage during times like these.
How to manage family conflict:
Don’t take sides. Taking sides hurts feelings and divides the family. Blaming one person in the family so the rest of the family feels better is dysfunctional and does not improve the family dynamic in the long run.
This time is bringing forth feelings of discomfort for each family member in their own way, therefore everyone is contributing to the uneasiness of the household at times.
Saying neutralizing statements like “I see that everyone is frustrated, let’s take a breather” or “everyone has a right to be heard, but let’s take a pause until we can all talk calmly” is beneficial.
Practice a gratitude exercise. Create a nightly ritual where each person will name something that they are thankful for, about each family member. It can be the smallest thing, for example: “Thank you for taking out the trash”, or “Thank you for your comforting presence.” When you practice gratitude, it leaves little room available for negative thoughts and feelings.
Delegate time for personal space, and for family time. The majority of us are still working on something- whether it be a personal project, work, or school. Create times during the day for each member to have time to get that done, as well as scheduling family time. Some examples of that are board games, movie nights, or some kind of family project. This is the time to get creative!
How to manage relationship conflict:
Even the most emotionally healthy couples may be facing conflict at this time. Navigating this new constantly-close “normal” may be challenging to cope with, but possible with these strategies:
Tips for Couples:
Re-frame the problem. Most of the time, when in conflict, we look at the person as the problem, but if we can shift away from that thinking to understand that the problem is the problem, then our partner will no longer be our enemy.
Think of you two being on a team working together to steer away from allowing the problems of the outside come into your home. Understand that it will disguise itself as frustration, irritability, and/or anger, but hold on to that as the problem simply trying to take over. What can you and your partner do to protect your unit?
Compliment each other. Making compliments throughout the day can show appreciation and value, and let’s keep it real, who doesn’t want to feel that?
You have a unique opportunity of watching your partner work! Giving a compliment like “You kicked butt on the phone today with your boss”, “You’re so smart and organized, it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to see”.
This kind of deep appreciation, like all soulful praise, is critical to the survival of any relationship, especially one in crisis, and one in close quarters. Appreciation and valuing not only show our partner that we love them, but also that each person believes in the other person—for who we each are.
If you feel like conflict gets to an uncomfortable level, it’s okay to seek external help to work on skills such as communication and patience. Remember that we are all experiencing this time differently, so looking for tools to help you get through this time is helpful and normal.
Above all else, remember to be kind to YOUR mind, and the minds of those you are sharing space with.
Follow Dr. Claudia on Instagram @bekindtothemind