Relationships, whether they are between lovers, friends or family; are hard. Let’s face it. There is so much that can be misconstrued, misunderstood. We have an idea that if a relationship is meant to be then it’s meant to be easy or light or fun all the time. But I don’t think that’s true. We relate to each other to help ourselves grow, to help us understand something about ourselves. That’s clearly not always going to be easy or light. When a relationship is struggling it can be easier to think you would be better off alone. Freedom can look so good. Yet we have a really strong human need to connect and to give and accept love. So we stay, we keep trying, keep talking and for better or worse work it out. With the strongest friendships or relationships there seems to be a desire on both sides to keep going, to keep at it. On a really simple level, there also seems to be genuine, heartfelt affection for each other which withstands all the mess that gets piled on top.
Unfortunately life isn’t perfect and I’m not perfect and you’re not perfect. And so how we relate can get messy. Sometimes we are going to say or do the wrong thing, whether intentional or not and hurt the people around us. So even though you know you deeply care for and love this person, in the real life, day-to-day struggle of the here and now, it’s certain that sometimes we are going to piss them off and they are going to piss us off. Even though it might not be intentional, we blame or resent the people closest to us often unfairly, for what happens in our lives. Communicating about how we’ve been hurt or listening to how we’ve hurt someone is the way that forgiveness can happen. So we learn how to forgive each other and ourselves and we grow and grow.
Relationships are complex. There are layers to them. Sometimes we seem to be testing ours and the other persons trust, seeing that even if we aren’t on our best behaviour all the time, will we still be loved or liked or wanted. We also seem to create dynamics in our relationships similar to the ones we experienced in our family when we were young. Maybe we create conflict in those relationships because our subconscious or spirit wants the opportunity to do over, to see ourselves stand up for ourselves, to see us fight for ourselves. Maybe conflict with the people closest to us is the safest way we can show ourselves that we have our own backs.
So if conflict is necessary and unavoidable, maybe it’s about how you act in those times. I remember attending a conflict resolution course at my previous job and they taught us to say things like “when you (enter specific behaviour here) it makes me feel (enter hurt feeling)”. That you should speak calmly, clearly, honestly and directly. While ideal, this feels so far from reality. Far more likely, we will choose to sulk or scream or ignore or silently brood or kick furniture around. Maybe a mixture of all of these. The worst is that you fully realise that you are behaving awfully and yet you still go ahead with it. It feels like a mixture of wanting to punish, to push away, to offend, to have your full right to a tantrum. At some point you lose sight of what the hurt or trouble was in the first place and then you just feel ashamed and scared that you have gone too far and caused irrevocable damage. Of course it would be so nice to avoid all this stuff and just get to the part where you sit as two calm gentle adults discussing in a polite fashion whatever it was that has got your goat, but that doesn’t always feel possible or at least it seems it can take venting, brooding and generally bratty behaviour to get to that calm, civilised place.
Having conflict in relationships can help us understand more about the other person and ourselves. If we spend a lot of time with someone it can be easy to think we understand them completely and we make a lot of assumptions about what they think and feel. But if we don’t take the time to listen and hear what they have to say we may stop them from showing us something else about themselves. We stop them from surprising us. And people are nothing if not surprising. And if we don’t say what we need to say and talk it out we might not realise there are ideas, thoughts and beliefs whirling around in our heads that we don’t realise until they are expressed by us.
The other thing that conflict seems to do is to allow us to choose the person again. Choose the friendship or the relationship. Know clearly that we really love, respect and admire this person. In spite of our faults or theirs. In some way, by fighting by creating conflict, we see the other person again. We stop taking them for granted and remind ourselves of that true heart felt affection, the real and true light and the love that you share.