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Improving at conflict resolution in romance

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Ruby Slippers

So... one thing I've grown leaps and bounds on is maintaining my composure and sense of calm no matter what's going on. I read this sometime last year: "One of the best lessons you can learn in life is to master how to remain calm." I love this. It's so true. If you're solid within yourself, pretty much nothing can rattle you.

I do this very well now at work, among friends, in general. And sometimes I do it well in romance. But not always. Romance is the one environment where I can get rattled the most easily. I want ideas for how to improve on this.

Looking back on the relationship I ended a little over a month ago, with the benefit of time to cool down and reflect, I realize that I was sometimes reactionary during conflict. Now, it didn't help that he was even more reactionary. I think he's probably got more of an anxious attachment style, whereas I have more of an avoidant attachment style. When things went wrong, he tended to get all worked up and want to cling on to me (fear of loss), and I tended to hold my composure - hold it, hold it, hold it... till I finally got rattled and worked up, then I'd feel an impulse to run away or push him away (fear of losing freedom/being forced to compromise).

I'm much more calm and collected during conflict than I used to be. But still, this is a weak spot for me. After my first big fight with the ex, we even wrote up an agreement on how we'd handle conflict in the future - but all our great ideas flew out the window as soon as we were heated and upset.

What can I do to improve this?

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  • 5 weeks later...
Eternal Sunshine

I am the same, very reactionary but can maintain my composure at work and with friends. In romance, especially if I am really into the guy, I am unable to. 

What I found to work best for me is to select a partner who is very calm and stable. When I am around someone like that, it's almost impossible to get rattled because these men descalate conflict so well. After a while, I start feeling calmer and instead of conflict there are fact-based discussions and relationship just flows. However, when I date a man that is similarly reactionary as me, we have such catastrophic fights that usually end with me breaking up and then getting back together once I cool down and other unhealthy behaviour. I have stopped working on myself and decided to chose men that are more compatible.

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One of the things I do when emotions get heated is to intentionally lower my voice.  It takes a measure of control to whisper rather than yell.  

Another I have learned to do is stop & take a breath.  Then I think about what I am about to say & weigh whether it will escalate or calm the situation.   

Finally you can also master phrases like "I didn't know you felt that way" or "that's interesting".  They acknowledge that you heard the other person but you are not saying that you agree with them. 

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