Managing Conflict: Opportunities or Deal Breakers?

couple sits in park unhappily not talk to each other has conflict in sunny sky
The Author
Dr. Margaret Paul

How do you handle differences in your relationships? Do you fight or do you learn?

If you are in a relationship, do you get into conflicts over your differences? If you are not in a relationship, are you looking for someone just like you?

Annie asks:

“Since separating from my husband, I am working on myself, but I realize I still like and attract people similar to him. After eight years of marriage, our relationship came to an end. He is a person driven by intellect and I am more driven by feelings. He wanted me to be more intellectually and career oriented, and I wanted him to be driven by family values and to be emotionally available. As I heal, does it mean I will attract different kinds of men, or will it just mean I will be better able to cope with differences?”

Difference is what adds spice to life – provided that both people are open to learning from the differences.

This is the key to seeing differences as opportunities rather than deal breakers.

Let’s take Annie’s situation as an example. If she had been open to learning with her husband, she would have valued his intellect and career motivation, and might have been open to embracing more of these ways of being into herself. If Annie’s husband had been open to learning, he would have valued her family values and emotional availability. He may have been motivated to examine his values and explore his blocks to emotional availability. Both could have learned and grown as a result of their differences.

So, although Annie states that they separated due to these differences, I disagree that this was the reason. I believe they separated because one or both were not open to learning from the differences. The fact that Annie states that she still likes and attracts people similar to her husband further supports my belief that it was not the differences themselves that created the problem. Annie might continue to be attracted to men like her husband because she needs to learn and grow in the areas of developing her intellect and her career.

Annie is asking if she will attract different kinds of men as she heals, or if she will be better able to cope with the differences. As she becomes more emotionally available with herself due to her Inner Bonding practice, she might attract more emotionally available men. But they will still all have their differences, and unless Annie is open to learning with them and they are open to learning with her, there may still be what seem like irreconcilable differences.

We all need to learn to accept differences, since they will always be there.

The more Annie heals, the more she will be able to accept and value the differences, rather than end a relationship over them.

The differences between Annie and her husband are very common ones between men and women. Instead of ending a relationship over them, why not consider getting some help in learning from them? This might lead both partners into understanding the real issue, which is the intent to control rather than learn with each other.

The most important thing to find out about your potential partner is whether or not he or she is open to learning in conflict. This is why it takes time to get to know someone – it takes time to get into conflict. Conflicts and differences offer all of us wonderful opportunities to learn and grow – when we have a true intention to learn about ourselves and each other.

To learn more about generating a loving intimate relationship see: Loving Relationship

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