"We argue over the dumbest things. It's all we do anymore. I want to get back to being "us."
Conflicts in marriage are common. When two people try to blend their ideas, goals, and perspectives, disagreements can happen. The opening quote is directly from a stepcouple I recently worked with. Jen said she feels like every day is one argument after the other. Jake shared he misses the "Fun Jen" he married a couple of years ago. So what is going on? In three words: Poor communication skills. Everyone is so busy defending their own perspective, they aren't listening to their partner. Each partner is so wrapped up in their own feelings they aren't taking their partner's feelings into consideration. A tug-of-war begins and truly effective communication skills are forgotten. If this feels familiar, let me reassure you, you're not alone! Is there hope? Yes! Here are the first steps towards opening communication and resolving conflict in your home.
Start with the end in mind! You and your partner came into this relationship with certain beliefs and perspectives. You see things one way, your partner may see them another. This isn't good or bad, it just is. One of the unique challenges of stepfamily life is blending past histories into a new family story. You each did things a certain way before the marriage, you may be set in your ways and change can feel uncomfortable. The most important thing you can do together is to ask, "What is our end goal?" When you start with the end in mind, you can problem-solve towards a common goal. Think of it as a shared intention for what is best for your family. Yours, Mine, and Ours
Arguing typically occurs when you are so busy defending your own perspective, you aren't listening to your partner's. You each get wrapped up in your own feelings and dig your heels in protecting, yourself from further hurt or disappointment. In the meantime, your partner may be feeling the same way. It has now become a tug-of-war instead of a partnership for problem-solving. Taking a step back and asking, "What is best for our family?" can help open up communication because it shifts the discussion from "I" to "We." Listen to Learn If you've been reading my blogs or working with me for a while, you know I use this phrase all the time. I created it to help my stepcouples take a breath and get curious instead of furious. When you are angry with your partner, you're not willing to hear them. It blocks off communication and any pathway to resolution. Instead, ask yourself, "What is my partner really saying?" or better yet, "What is my partner really feeling?" Listen for feelings, you may have to dig deep to get to them but it will help you understand your partner's perspective so much more. It's okay to use phrases like: Were you feeling disappointed when that happened? So am I hearing you say you feel resentful about ...? It sounds like you felt ....... when I did that. Am I hearing you right? Do not worry about using the "right" feeling word! Typically, your partner will clarify the feeling they were having once you've opened the door of communicating. The secret of success is actually taking the time and effort to tap the emotions behind the words. It will help your partner to feel validated, which opens up communication -- which is the whole goal! While these are only the first steps of conflict resolution, I believe they are the most important! Once you begin to open the lines of communication then pathways to resolution are available. If this blog resonated with you, I invite you to sign up for my weekly newsletter. You'll learn more ways to strengthen all aspects of stepfamily relationships! Don't miss out on any of the strategies, sign up today! Photo by Jasmine Carter from Pexels