Conflict is a normal, and even healthy, part of any relationship. The happiest couples fight too – they just manage conflict better than unhappy couples*. One important element of managing conflict is knowing what you and your partner are comfortable with sharing about your arguments.
Everyone has their own unique style of seeking support when they are upset. It is not uncommon for women to reach out to a friend, a sibling, or a parent. I’m certainly supportive of having those people to reach out to when you are in distress, and often I find it sad that men tend not to do this. What’s important to discuss with your betrothed is what boundaries you two are going to set with sharing what goes on behind closed doors.
What I’d like to do here is make a few suggestions to help you start a conversation, and take what I say here just into consideration. Depending on your family of origin, culture, and other environmental factors, you will have your own reasons for deciding what fits you best. And I certainly encourage each couples to do what is best for them! The biggest message I want to get across however is that couples should be in agreement about how they will conflict share.
It’s imperative that you’re on the same page. You both do not have the share the same way, or at all, but it’s important that if you’re going to, your partner is aware and feels comfortable with it. In many cultures, the entire family is involved in couple-conflict, and will even intervene and help them to process through arguments. Other families glaze over conflict, almost to a fault where the couple feels ashamed if any conflict is acknowledged. While most couples probably fall somewhere in the middle, if you over-share about your conflict with your partner and they are not comfortable with it, they will likely feel a sense of betrayal.
Research has shown that for dating couples*, the more you discuss your conflict with your partner, the more likely that you will break up. This is because our family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc., all see our partners through the lens that we paint them. And while your partner can mend and make up with you, they cannot do the same for your support group. If a hurt cannot be healed in their eyes, they may not be supportive of the relationship in the future. I say this with a grain of salt, because I hope that our support systems will always be aware and eager to share if they believe your relationship is unhealthy. We all need that feedback, especially while in the dating phase. However, it is different for the person you are committed to spending your life with. What I am suggesting here is that when there’s an argument that is likely to blow over, it may be a good consideration to keep it in the privacy of your home.
It is good to create a sense of safety in the relationship – a piece of what is going on stays between you, without the threat of outside interference. It is very intimate to have your own world that you do not have to share with others, and conflict can be a part of it, too.
Begin a conversation with your betrothed about this. Respect what makes them comfortable, share what’s important to you. And if you have a difficult time navigating this conversation or would like to have others like it, call 480-993-1922 and make an appointment with me today.
*John Gottman’s research
*Jake Jensen’s thesis research, Auburn University