Healthy Relationship Conflict

Part 2 of 11

“10 Ways to be Real in Spite of Conflict”

Realize that resolving relationship conflict is healthy and necessary for growth.

Let’s clarify that. The key word is “resolving conflict” where both parties feel heard, understood, and valued. Resolving relationship conflict does not mean power and control over another. If you’re continually giving in to keep the peace, or if you’re sacrificing your own principles and values, you may be in an unhealthy relationship.

So what’s an unhealthy relationship? I’m glad you asked. Think of healthy or unhealthy as any point on a continuum. Remember geometry class where you learned that a straight horizontal line goes on and on in either direction? That’s what I’m referring to.

In the healthy direction, both parties respect the otherness of the other. They value each other’s opinions. They have positive regard for each other. They are on the same team. They are partners. They are curious about each other’s differences. They hold their differences as opening up their own perspectives. Yeah! Does that sound real or not?

Here’s my definition of an unhealthy relationship.

On the continuum line, you’re heading in the direction of seeing each other as inconsiderate, domineering, selfish, demanding, and disrespectful. In extreme cases the relationship is considered poisonous. One partner may take all the blame while the other soaks up grandiose beliefs about himself/herself. If this is the case for your relationship, these next few blog posts may not work at all other than to align you with awareness that your relationship needs help beyond these ideas. Seek out a licensed professional counselor who specializes in relationships as soon as possible.

For those who are willing to grow together and change the partnership dance of conflict here’s a foundation for your thoughts that will make the other nine steps happen. Realize that your journey and growth as a human being depends on allowing your husband or wife influence you and broaden your perspective.

We all have blind spots in our personalities.

Our spouse is the one who sees the good, bad and ugly of our lives. We can either write them off by disregarding their perspective, or we can find an element of truth and be open to our own need for awareness and growth.

Examples of writing off your spouse may be some of the following:

  1. He’s just depressed and sees everything negative.
  2. She has bipolar disorder and over-reacts anyway.
  3. It’s because of how he grew up that’s skewed his viewpoint of me.
  4. There’s nothing I can do that makes her happy no matter how hard I try.

Do any of these excuses sound familiar? You may be very right in your assessment, yet it may be their issues that God is using in your life to refine and grow you into living your life fully. In other words, your spouse along with their issues may be exactly what you need to grow your character. It may not be possible with anyone other than your own spouse and their issues.

Tune in to the next blog post as we address our 2nd of 10 ways to be real in spite of conflict. Our next post is how to be curious about differences rather than demand, judge, or criticize differences.

I’d love to hear your comments! Post below any other “excuses” out there. Let me know what you think of this post!

10 Ways To Be Real In Spite Of Conflict


Most of us really don’t know how to be our real selves through conflict. Some will avoid it, panic at the thought of it, run from it, or pretend it doesn’t exits. Others may thrive on it, confront it, and live by winning it. Here are things that are absolutely necessary for conflict recovery and being real in relationships.

  1. Realize that resolving conflict is healthy and necessary for growth.
  2. Be curious about differences rather than demand, judge, or criticize differences.
  3. Ask permission of the other to respectfully address the conflict.
  4. When you feel reactions of anger or defensiveness, take 4 deep breaths and wait 90 seconds before responding.
  1. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements.
  2. Increase your feeling vocabulary and know the difference between thoughts and feelings.
  3. Give your partner opportunity to express his or her point of view that’s  different than yours.
  1. Respectfully repeat back what you heard the other to say to let him or her know you listened.
  2. Respect the dignity, worth, and well-being of the other regardless of the conflict.
  3. Avoid focusing on what you don’t want, and politely request what you do want or need.

For the next 10 posts, I’ll focus on the “how to” of each of the 10 ways to be real in spite of conflict.

Five Lessons from a Five Year Old

The sun was shining and the rain drizzled. Five-year old Ella said, “Let’s look for a rainbow, Mimi. I’ve never seen a real one. I’ve seen them in picture books but I’ve never seen a real one. But it’s raining now and the sun is shining. Let’s look for one.”

Paying careful attention to my driving, I heard a squeal, “There it is! There’s the rainbow! A real rainbow!” Sure enough I glanced to the left and a huge bright distinct rainbow arched the entire city! There was a lesser bright rainbow above it – a double rainbow! And it stayed around several minutes afterwards – A reminder of God’s love to a little girl and her grandmother.

She saw that the weather conditions were just right. She thought about it. She verbalized it. She was looking for it. She found it. She was intentional. Here are five lessons from a five-year-old girl about receiving God’s gifts.

  1. Become familiar with God’s gifts through reading the Bible
  2. Think about it.
  3. Talk about it.
  4. Be intentional about looking for it.
  5. Be ready to find it.

AIR – Awareness, Intentionality, Risk

Other than occasional moments of forgetting to breathe, most of us don’t even think about it. We’re able to take in a deep breath of air. . . . we can breathe in openness. . . we can breathe in courage . . . we can breathe in the air around us.

Breathing in air is so natural for most of us, isn’t it?

. . .unless we’re a newborn baby emerging from our mother’s womb gasping for our first.

. . . unless we’re on our deathbed, gasping for our last.

Everything in between birth and death is our substance for life: AIR.

Air is one of the four classical elements of Greek philosophy, along with fire, water, and earth.

As necessary as it is for life, most of us take air for granted. We can’t live without this gaseous material of nitrogen and oxygen that makes up our world’s cozy blanket. The protective layer of atmosphere around the earth is our natural sunscreen.

I enjoy walking barefoot in my front yard first thing in the morning. It’s part of my daily ritual of hot coffee and prayerful meditation. Nature sounds are distinct and vibrant. I sometimes watch birds circling the sky. Squirrels leap from tree to tree. I usually don’t think about the air that makes their flights easy.

When I board a plane, I don’t think about the physics of air travel. On vacation, I enjoy watching sailboats gliding across the water guided by skilled sailors and propelled by air current. One of my favorite hobbies is paddling a peaceful river in our red seventeen-foot canoe and feeling the air guiding us along.

I think of air both in physical ways and as terms of language.

I don’t understand the science of using airwaves for telecommunications even though I use my cell phone and internet service every day. Behind the scenes of television or radio newsrooms, someone might say, “you’re on the air.”

As a little girl, I helped my mom hang laundry out to air dry on the clothes lines. I later understood the phrase “don’t air your dirty laundry.”

Every Spring when we no longer need our central heat and air, we open the windows of our home. We air out the rooms to bring in fresh breeze.

I like to watch people when I’m in a crowded mall or outdoor festival. Posture alone gives clues to whether a person has an air of superiority or an air of confidence.

Awareness, Intentionality, Risk

Air is our substance for life. It’s vital for our survival, well-being, and growth. So is AIR: Awareness, Intentionality, and Risk. All of these points are mandatory for well-being and growth, just as the air we breathe is crucial for our survival.

Think of Awareness, Intentionality, and Risk as basic for movement through life, just as birds and planes travel from one place to another. Think of AIR as fundamental for dialogue just as landlines, cell phones, radios, and satellites are needed for communication. Think of AIR as the means of opening the windows of the soul to allow the fresh breeze of the Holy Spirit to flow through.

Questions to Ponder . . .

How has this post increased your awareness?

What are examples of well-being and growth in your life?

Can you identify Awareness, Intentionality, and Risk with those examples?


How is our marriage really doing?

Have you taken pride in managing your money well, then later found out a check bounced? Have you balanced the checkbook and then discovered you were spending more on eating out than you realized?

Have you believed you were eating well, then were surprised the scales registered 10 pounds more than expected? Have you written down everything you ate and saw you were taking in many more calories than you were actually burning?

Many couples enter counseling with a lot of uncertainty.  One is usually dragged in by the other. One says, “We need help.” The other says, “We’re doing fine. . . We can work this out on our own. . .We’re not as bad off as you think.” It makes sense that couples who detect problems in their relationship, on average, wait an additional six years before they get help.

TigerPhotoIt’s very common for one spouse to minimize and the other maximize. I call it the “Turtle/Tiger” syndrome. Turtles typically hide in their shells and avoid conflict or accuse their partners of blowing things out of proportion. Tigers, on the other hand, roar and persist until they are heard. Many times they DO see things worse than they are. Turtles tend to see things “not as bad” as they really are.  TurtlePhoto

The Partnership Pattern chart is a great way to balance the check book of your relationship. No need to write down what you eat here. All you have to do is observe, experience, and check off measurable items that are going on now in your relationship.

Ideally, it’s great for both Tigers AND Turtles to participate. But if the Turtle in your life is still hiding, you Tigers will have a great outlet for grounding in reality. The idea is to check off what you experienced most in the relationship that day. Do it every day for one month and get a clear picture of what you need, whether it’s an enrichment weekend or crisis intervention. Know where your relationship stands.  Sign up for your free Partnership Pattern chart.

In upcoming blogs, I’ll give you ideas for developing healthy relationship patterns.