An interesting fact about me is that I don’t have a middle name. When Greg and I were dating he quickly remedied that situation by assigning the word “Pride” to that blank space in my name. To this day, Jennifer Pride Clark can make an appearance when we get into “discussions” that usually involve us seeing things from two totally different perspectives.
Truth be told, that word has not been just my vice in the relationship; but both of ours. We both have an overabundance of the “P” word which has been a challenge for us over the years. However, through our trials and tribulations as a couple, we’ve managed to keep it in check.
Last week, we looked at the importance of how you invest your time in relationships. As we continue into the second week of our series on the Secret Ingredients to Relationships That Thrive, we’re going look at how to grow together in love, and avoid growing apart.
Conflict is one of the driving forces to growth in either direction.
Despite what we may tend to believe, conflict can actually have a healthy impact on relationships, and we’re going to explore how. First, let me give you some insight into my perspective on this sensitive topic….back to where we started today’s post; Greg, me, and….our pride.
Interestingly, we both came into our relationship from two very different backgrounds to marriage.
I came from a divorced family, my parents separated when I was four years old. As I got older, through talking to both of my parents, I learned more about the dynamic of their marriage. As it came close to the end, the relationship was toxic. When they fought, my dad felt he was never in the wrong, therefore he never got to a point where he listened to my mom’s point of view. Over time, my mom stopped trying to stand up for herself.
Greg’s parents, on the other hand, have been married now for over 40 years. Naturally, he wanted the same thing when he settled down. He got married very early in his 20s, and after two short years found himself divorced and a single dad. He was devastated as you might imagine; having failed at something he wanted so desperately.
We met about a year after his divorce, and I was still damaged from the relationship I mentioned in the last post. In the early months and years of our time together, conflict was a big issue that almost got the best of us. We came from such different places, and both of us so filled with pride, at times it got pretty ugly. Neither one of us wanted to back down from our point of view.
Every time we had a fight, he feared I was going to pack up my bags and leave, and I unfairly kept comparing him to my father. Needless to say, it was pretty rough.
Gradually, over the years the dynamic of our arguments changed. We went through some very trying times together; both as individuals and together as a couple. It was through those times we began to notice that our differences actually fostered our growth as a couple. Here’s what we realized:
Disagreement Is Ok When These Key Things Are Part of the Foundation of Your Relationship:
Mutual Respect is absolutely essential to any relationship. One of the most important times it comes into play is during conflict. If you don’t respect the person you are disagreeing with, you will not listen to what they have to say. If they don’t respect you, count on the same response.
No respect means no listening. Instead of actually hearing what the other person has to say, you wait for them to stop talking so you can say what you need to say. Here’s the problem with that, in case it’s not obvious…that doesn’t work with relationships! Does it sound appealing to spend more time with someone who doesn’t respect who you are and where you’re coming from? Of course not.
If you respect the people who matter the most in your life, then honor who they are and make a conscious effort to listen to where they’re coming from. They may not be right….but then again, they just may be. They may not have the solutions, but they may have something to offer you hadn’t thought of before.
I think it’s pretty fair to say that trust don’t come easy when it comes to relationships. To truly trust someone, means you allow yourself to be vulnerable with them. It means you actually allow yourself to believe what they say. In order to love someone, and allow them to love you, trust has to be in place.
Trust is easily one of the most fragile parts of a relationship. It takes so much to build it, and so little to break it into a million pieces. Knowing how precious it is, hopefully helps us to realize the power it has when it comes to working through conflict.
Work to build your relationship based on it, and when it comes to times of disagreement, you can trust that the other person is coming from a genuine place. Believe me, Greg and I have had many times in our relationship when one of us has brought to light something not so “amazing” about what the other is doing. Being able to trust that what each other is saying is coming from a place of love allows us to work through it.
“Have the humility to learn from those around you.” ~John C. Maxwell
To be humble in a relationship, especially when you’re in the middle of a disagreement allows you both to move forward. To lay down your sword and shield of pride and be willing to hear the other person allows for the possibility of compromise. A way to come together to allow both points to be expressed, learned from, and heard.
When we are humble in conflict, not only can we come to a compromise, but we can come to a place of forgiveness. Sometimes we need to forgive each other, and sometimes, we need to forgive ourselves. Having the ability to see past the end of your nose and into the heart of the person you love is how we grow through some of the biggest disagreements.
Conflict is one of those inevitable things in any relationship. It can be the catalyst that helps you grow together when the foundation of what you are together is based on Respect, Trust, and Humility.
Stay tuned for Part II of What it Takes to Grow Together where we’ll discuss how even people with completely different interests can grow together.
What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to conflict with those you love?
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