Our recent collective fixation on “red flags” might validate the idea that conflict with our partners is a bad sign for our relationship:
“Does this mean we’re unhappy?”
“Maybe we’re just not right for each other?”
“Maybe they’re just not the One.”
However, disagreement does not necessarily signal the decline of a relationship. On the contrary, these are important opportunities to grow and develop emotional maturity—the ability to navigate and express emotions with balance and understanding, fostering positive relationships and personal growth.
And so we must learn that it’s not actually a lack of conflict that determines a healthy and successful relationship—far from it. In reality, it is how we handle these conflicts as a couple that truly matters.
The Importance of Understanding
The 2021 edition of Match.com’s annual study on dating Singles in America showed that emotional maturity had become the most sought-out quality in a significant other. After the COVID-19 crisis, people started seeking out partners who were focused on self-bettering and finding stability. People are now prioritizing mindfulness and communication in their relationships.
Communication is more than just expressing your grievances. While being open about your feelings is a good starting point, the next step is finding a way to discuss issues with tact and patience. Keep in mind that conversations are a two-way street, so it’s just as important to listen with compassion and an open mind.
Don’t Poison the Well
We can’t control our emotions, but we can decide how we manage them and how they manifest in our interactions. This does not mean adapting a stone-faced demeanor or hiding your true feelings from your partner; rather, it calls for honesty without brutality.
Avoid pointing fingers. Instead of trying to pin the blame on someone with aggressive language, articulate how you feel. Don’t let your feelings speak for you; when our emotions are in a heightened state, we may say hurtful things we don’t mean.
What you can do is identify the feeling—are you sad, angry, upset?—then explain where these feelings are rooted. Conflict resolution is meant to be constructive. Bring attention to actions or behaviors that you thought were hurtful in lieu of blatantly accusing or insulting your partner.
“I get angry when you don’t reply to my messages because it makes me feel like you don’t care,” is much easier to take in compared to, “You never reply to my messages because you don't care.”
Cast Away Your Pride
If we don’t work on our emotional maturity, our primary impulse is typically to get defensive and retaliate. We tend to turn to these instincts when we feel cornered and out of options, acting out of pain and defeat. We are overcome by the urge to control.
But we have to let go of our inclination to be the winner of an argument. After all, the goal is to move forward and improve the relationship, not treat your partner as an opponent and beat them in a fight.
Take accountability for your actions and reactions. We don’t get to decide how a person feels about something we’ve done. People make themselves vulnerable when they confide in us; the least we can do is listen to them, respect their feelings, and take an active approach to improving ourselves and our relationships.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Growth and change can be extremely challenging. Emotional maturity is something you have to willingly work on, and it’s not going to be easy. You have to be aware of your flaws and accept that you have them in order to fix them.
Our shortcomings do not immediately make us bad partners. If you choose to take conflict as a chance to learn and be better, you’re already on the right track.