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Loving Yourself When in Conflict

By Dr. Margaret Paul
November 07, 2016

You have a much better chance at conflict resolution when you are loving yourself rather than trying to control the other person.

A couple illustrating conflict, the woman is screaming and punching the man in the face with a boxing glove on. One of the questions I often receive is about how to manage conflict. If you think back to the role-modeling you received regarding how to manage conflict, you will likely remember that your parents or other caregivers fought, complied, withdrew in anger, blamed or resisted, or just shut down and ignored the conflict. Do you have any images of your role models loving themselves through conflict, and of healthy conflict resolution?   

Lissel asked:

"When I'm in a conflict with someone I start to feel anxious, angry and withdrawn from the person. Then I start to think about the conflict, what I said, what the other person said, and it goes on and on. It makes me feel nervous. What to do in these situations?"

Lissel, you feel anxious and angry and you withdraw because you are abandoning yourself rather than loving yourself. There are only two ways of managing conflict that are loving to you.

  • If you are capable of opening to learning about how you see things and how the other person sees things, and you think that the other person will open to learning with you, then it’s loving to yourself to open to learning, which can lead to win-win conflict resolution.
  • If you can't open or you know the other person won't open, then loving yourself means lovingly disengaging, which is very different from withdrawal. When you withdraw, you are angry and punishing the other person by withdrawing your love, but when you lovingly disengage, you are loving yourself by getting yourself out of range of the conflict. Then, do your Inner Bonding work and come back in 30 minutes to see if resolution is possible. If not, you need to decide for yourself what is loving to you in the face of the other person being closed to resolution.

We all need to accept that we can't hear each other when we are angry, so there is no point in saying anything when one or both are angry.

Lissel, if you were loving yourself through the conflict, you wouldn't ruminate. You ruminate when you abandon yourself.

Maureen asked:

"How do I talk reasonably with my husband when he gets so fired up over any question that challenges his way of thinking?"

Maureen, it's not possible to talk reasonably with your husband when he's fired up. When we are angry, we are operating from the lower part of our brain. The reasonable part of us isn't even online. This is the time to lovingly disengage, and perhaps try to talk about it later, when he is calm.

Shelly asked:

"My boyfriend can get mad and scold me like a child and uses an angry and intense tone. I ask him to please not talk to me that way and he often continues. I bring it up later and he does not seem to understand how hurtful this is and he does not apologize. I feel so disrespected and abused. It is damaging our relationship. I know that I should just leave when he behaves that way and if I do he will then ignore me for several days then he calls me. We are caught in this terrible cycle. I feel like we are at the end of our relationship. Any advice?"

Shelly, there is no point in continuing to ask him not to talk to you that way because you have no control over how he talks you, or whether he will talk about it later or apologize. The only thing you have control over is you. By trying to control him rather than lovingly disengaging, you are allowing yourself to be disrespected and abused, and are disrespecting yourself. You are staying and being abused to try to control him into not ignoring you for days, but you need to accept that this is what he sometimes does. When you show up for yourself and choose to love yourself rather than continue to try to control him, things might improve between you.

Loving yourself, including in the face of conflict, can have a major impact on all your relationships!

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Join IBVillage and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.


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