Conflict and the angry feelings that go with it are normal in intimate relationships.
While it is common to hear the words conflict and anger used interchangeably, they are, in fact, not synonymous: Conflict refers to a state of disagreement between two or more parties. Because anger often arises in response to conflict, the two words are erroneously used interchangeably.
When it comes to conflict resolution, anger is like an accelerant. The more angry you become, the more your conflict ignites, thereby extinguishing any hope of resolution.
Anger is anathema to conflict resolution because, for most people, anger equals action. By this I mean, the vast majority of the human race hasn't learned to control their impulses and channel negative feelings into constructive communications. Rather, it's common for people to "act out" angry feelings with hostile words (sarcasm, threats, yelling, name calling) or hostile behavior (slamming doors, pushing, shoving, etc.). My method is all about guiding you to not deliver raw, angry emotions in pure form to your partner.
In my book Kiss Your Fights Goodbye: Dr. Love’s 10 Simple Steps to Cooling Conflict and Rekindling Your Connection, I outline the various dysfunctional ways that people act out their anger using what I call Fight Traps.
I divide Fight Traps into two categories: Open Warfare and Secret Warfare. Both types of Fight Traps throw oil on the fire and create greater relationship conflict.
Open Warfare consists of those outright slaps in the face. These tactics are designed to hurt or pay back the person you are angry with. Open Warfare Fight Traps include: Name-Calling, Verbal Insults, Character Assassinations, I Told You So, Bringing up Ancient History, and many more.
Secret Warfare is subtler but just as dangerous. Secret Warfare tactics include: Silent Treatment, Passive Aggression (coming late, forgetting, withholding, etc.), Indirect Digs, Paybacks, and so on.
Because Fight Traps are the kiss of death to your relationship, if you wish to resolve conflicts and experience harmonious loving relationships with friends and loved ones, you need to identify each and every Fight Trap that you use and permanently ditch them.
That's easier said than done.
There is a sick kind of satisfaction that most humans derive when they dump anger on somebody else, especially a loved one who has really hurt and angered them.
While getting your emotional rocks off may make you feel better in the moment, on the rocks is where your relationship is going to end up. This is because emotional venting has a negative effect on the person who is being dumped on. The dumpee stores up resentment and pays you back in spades. So, whatever you say or do in the heat of the moment boomerangs back on you, meaning if you hurt your partner you are ultimately hurting yourself. By the way, beware of any form of counseling that encourages you and your partner to take turns dumping or venting on each other. Doing so only makes matters worse!
If outright dumping and subtle paybacks aren't the answer, then what can be done with anger?
Now I'm really going to throw you a curve ball.
Contrary to what you may have heard, angry feelings must never ever be "expressed." Expressed anger refers to various forms of acting out in which one vents, rants and raves. Expressing consists of releasing raw impulses and basically dumping on the other. The key point here is the distinction between expressing versus describing one's feelings. Describing involves taking emotional distance, and using your intellect to devise a clear-headed description of what you're feeling and why. Describing is what you're after.
Don't fool yourself into believing that you cannot control what you say or do in the heat of anger. You can! You can control yourself when it comes to a boss or superior. You wouldn't think of telling off your boss because you know you'd lose your job! This means that you can choose to control yourself in your personal relationships if you want to. The reason people don't control themselves in their intimate relationships is because they don't think they have to. What I'm talking about here is making the choice to control yourself with those you love most, because you have to. If you don't, you won't lose your job, you'll lose your relationships.
I like to use the image of a sieve when discussing angry emotions. Before talking with your partner, friend or family member about what has angered you, filter those raw emotions through the sieve of your intellect. What remains trapped in the sieve is the raw, yucky emotional guck that you must keep to yourself; what passes through the sieve has been transformed and detoxified. That's what fit for human consumption.
From now on, vow to only say what you know will be helpful, beneficial and constructive not only to yourself, but also to the other party and your relationship (which is synonymous with being helpful and constructive to yourself since, as I said, everything you say and do boomerangs back on you!)
Keep practicing this exercise in self-discipline and you will become more and more skilled. Soon, your relationship will become yet another pebble in the universal pond, a model that guides others on how to behave when they're angry. In so doing, you will not only improve your life and relationships, you will actually be instrumental in assisting the entire human race to evolve. Think of how the world would be a better place if everyone followed this principle!
Avaiable NOW on Amazon, Dr. Turndorf's new book, Kiss Your Fights Good-bye: Dr. Love's 10 Simple Steps to Cooling Conflict and Rekindling Your Relationship.