Contributed by Alicia La Hoz, PsyD
The anticipation built after months of training, campaigning, fundraising, debating, and strategizing came and went – Election Day. The nation hurried to the polls to cast their vote. Then, with much excitement and anxiety, everyone waited for the outcome. While half of the country danced with joy and happiness as they experienced their party take the victory, the other half regretted the loss, startled by the outcome and was left trying to understand what went wrong and where to go from here.
Before the cheers and before the tears, there was the evening where the country anxiously awaited and anticipated. Everyone hoped, projected an outcome and aspired that their party would win.
In this election, volunteers poured in and tirelessly worked, fighting for what they believed in so strongly. Everything from playgrounds, to city streets, to coffee shops, to government hallways, to the cyberworld hummed a tune – the tune of a decision that was going to be made and that would determine the future of the country for years to come. It’s a healthy process because it allows the American people to weight in, to vote based on their values and beliefs, and to charge a path for the future. Without the election, and all that leads to it, dictatorship, anarchy and oppression would rule.
I wondered though – what could learn from the process of this election in regards to relationships and marriage.
In the same way that the country is split with different political views, so are most relationships split with different worldviews, personalities and life experiences. As much as a couple loves each other, it’s only a matter of time before their differing perspectives clash. In spite of this, many couples do work through their differences, succeed in raising families, resolve conflicts, make tough decisions, and much more.
Successful couples learn to appreciate each other’s differences and backgrounds and figure out how to make compromises that work. But before the compromises come, healthy couples enjoy a period of time where they express their thoughts and feelings about situations. Healthy couples don’t just pretend to go along with their partner at the cost of their personal opinions and ideas. They first express them openly and honestly. Couples who fight (while respecting each other) about the ‘hot’ issues that propel them to make decisions, are engaged, involved and thoughtful about where they come from. They listen to each other attentively and, while they struggle to really ‘get’ where their spouse is coming from, they learn to appreciate the differences that could otherwise tear them apart.
And then there are the couples who argue bitterly throughout the duration of their relationship. They blame each other in toxic and poisonous ways, insulting each other about their difference. Their focus is not on what their common goals are, or in how they could learn about each other; instead they turn against each other. And as these couples get tired and disillusioned of each other, many will part ways. When we don’t know how to have a good fight, we give up and don’t fight at all or we become too aggressive.
The election process bears much resemblance to the decision-making and conflict-laden situations that we struggle through with our most loving and intimate relationships. Couples who successfully work through conflicts do so because they enter the process – regularly as needed throughout the relationship lifetime.
- Conflict Brings Passion. Lack of conflict is dangerous. When there is no conflict, opinions are not shared, feelings are not explored, routine reigns, people are taken for granted, and issues are not aired and discussed honestly and openly. When you are able to honestly talk about the differences in your relationship, then there is potential for movement, for understanding to occur and for change to happen. When conflict happens, you know you are alive. You know you have ideas, opinions and feelings and you have a reason for these and this awakens you. You feel the most alive when you can fully share your beliefs, dreams and ideas. When you can share this with your spouse in a safe and non-threatening way, your love re-kindles. Relationships that choose to ignore the issues, to dispel them, and to avoid talking and even arguing about them can lack passion and be plagued by complacency.
- Conflict With Boundaries. While conflict is healthy, it’s unhealthy to have a perpetually and endless lack of resolution, especially when a decision needs to be made. When issues are barely addressed and couples struggle to come to terms with a final outcome or compromise, this can lead to frustration and indifference. It can be very helpful to define a period of time of when that decision needs to be made. Knowing for example, that you don’t have to make a decision after one conversation but that you can talk things through for two or three months before you have to decide, can take some of the pressure off. The time not only helps you to organize your thoughts and ideas, but also gives you enough space to thoroughly consider and better understand where your partner is coming from.
- Conflict and a Decision Day. Ultimately, after you’ve weighed the pros and cons and considered all the angles, everyone needs to cast a vote. A decision needs to be made. Movement and growth can’t occur in the absence of a decision. When you don’t make a decision, one is made for you, and when that happens you have less control of the outcome.
- Conflict and Loss. Decisions don’t mean that everything will go your way. A decision means that you have decided to say “no” to many things that you did want, wish, or believed strongly in so that you could follow one path. This means that you grief and that you. Doing so brings a sense of sadness and nostalgia for that which you left behind. But it also means that you can move forward, anticipate and hope.
- Conflict and Respect. Once you’ve made a decision as a couple, you honor each other and respect each other. You follow-through and you charge forward working towards building your dream, your future and keeping the threads of the family together.
So bring on the conflict, embrace it, deal with it and work through it. Only when you do, will you live fully, hope, change and grow.
Need some more help in resolving conflict? Download our “Deal With It” mobile apps. From your mobile phone, go to www.gloo.us/app and download them today.