It was a cold morning in Los Angeles, where I live with my partner and our daughter. I was rushing to leave home for work, going over to-do’s while brushing my hair, when my partner approached me with a question about our annual budget.
These are the moments that define trust in relationships as author Brené Brown describes in The Anatomy of Trust – watch here. My partner was reaching out to me, asking for my help to make a financial decision. Still, at 7:30 a.m., under pressing and conflicting schedules, this moment was framed by my need to find a solution immediately. It predictably turned into a minor power struggle between partners: him wanting my attention versus my need to be on time at work.
As my 2-1/2 year-old daughter stopped playing and stared at us, I turned to my partner and told him to stop, loudly. This of course did not solve anything and now the three of us were uncomfortably staring at each other. Trust and love came to a standstill.
I kept the issue from escalating but it was not resolved and I didn’t offer an alternative to address the conflict. I realize that this was not the best way to deal with family stress.
I love my partner and my daughter beyond any measure and every day I can feel that love growing. But there are days when their actions conflict with my needs such as an ideal schedule and I feel frustration.
Today it is more likely that both parents work outside of the house, limiting the time they spend as a family and as a couple. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of married couples with children are dual income households and 46 percent of those couples are working full-time, both mom and dad.
In my ideal schedule, there is no time for disagreements. I know this is unreal and unhealthy as one component of a healthy relationship is to compromise. I wondered what would have been a better response to my morning stress. How can I model positive conflict resolution for my daughter and how can we – my partner and I – increase our skills for doing so?
I found out that the best response is to have a plan that incorporates perspective. Close your eyes, breathe, and say, “This too will pass”. These stressful moments do not need to define our relationships, and they do not define us. Life itself is stressful and some say that a little stress is actually good for you. The fact is we can’t elude stress.
Here is a good article by Rory Vaden titled “How to Fight: 10 Rules of Relationship Conflict Resolution” He says that “Great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict, but from determining an agreeable pattern for how to resolve conflict.”