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In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I revisit the five stages of relationships in the context of understanding conflict at each stage of the relationship and how it relates to intimacy.

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Some nuggets from the episode

  • When an established couple says that they never argue, that’s a problem. There’s a reason why they don’t. No one gets on all the time. We’re humans and get on each other’s nerves. We have things that bother us. How have we managed to go through an entire relationship being two separate people and never disagreeing?
  • We have to question why we are arguing and debating about our boundaries with a veritable stranger or someone we are not in a relationship with.
  • If everybody can be The One; if we’re going to fight for every little involvement as if they are The One, then nobody is The One. We’re in love with being in love. We’re in love with the idea of not being on our own more than we are with that person. We are not discerning.
  • Conflict issues arise at Stage 0 and 1 because one or both parties are moving too fast and mistaking intensity for intimacy, or because of misunderstandings that are often result from miscommunications via text. Sometimes people are looking for a quick way out so that they don’t have to risk actually being in a relationship.
  • Stage 2 of relationships is where the real getting to know begins, and sometimes conflict results from us disliking the difference between reality and the picture we’ve painted in our mind.

We don’t meet somebody and then fill a vacancy in their relationship slot; we co-create our relationships. If we don’t like relationship we’re in, we co-created it.

  • Stage 2 is where we ascertain whether we’re divided by conflict or whether we remain on the same team. Can we engage in conflict and love our partner at the same time?
  • If we avoid conflict and intimacy, we don’t get to learn and grow from it. We don’t get to experience the benefits.
  • Our relationship can’t progress and deepen in intimacy if we withdraw and tend to assume the worst about our relationship or partner.
  • Stage 3 is about evolving our handling of conflict and problem solving.
  • With circular issues, it’s critical to acknowledge whether an issue is coming back round because each person keeps doing the same thing and expecting different results or whether there’s progress in how it’s being handled.
  • Stage 3 is about discovering whether we can work through things.
  • Core values can be a source of conflict at Stage 3 precisely because we are evolving the relationship and deepening our commitments as part of trying to build our lives together.

We cause more problems by not talking about stuff than we do by talking.

  • Sometimes we have to keep revisiting something through conflict to figure out how to articulate what’s bothering us and how to resolve it.
  • Vulnerability sometimes means “I’m going to have to bite the bullet and be honest in the area where I’m most scared of being honest.”
  • Affairs are an expression of problem-solving issues. They look for a solution to an internal problems.
  • We can’t develop conflict resolution skills without allowing ourselves to run into problems.
  • When we are afraid of relying on people, this can be a source of conflict at Stage 3. It’s about deepening intimacy through allowing us to trust by expressing our needs, asking for help and allowing us to be human and depend.
  • When power struggles continue at Stage 3, it’s time for us to get honest about what we’re invested in. Power? Control? Being right? Being the winner?
  • We have to be careful of complacency at Stage 4. We’re in it for the long haul, but we also still need to show up. We’ll also face big challenges and be pushed into territories where we will need to ask for more.

As our relationships process and deepen in intimacy so does the relationship we have with ourselves.

  • Whether we’re in a relationship or not, acknowledging how we treat us when things don’t go our way, when we’re pissed off, when we’re mad at us helps us to understand our relationship with conflict. Do we lose our temper with us? Do we argue with us, rage, silent treatment? Or, do we do some of these but then calm down and be kinder to ourselves? Do we try to talk it through?
  • Acknowledging our past experiences of conflict helps us to understand our current habits. If we don’t talk about anything, why is that? If we get loud, why is that? What do we tend to do when we are in conflict, and where did we learn to do that?
  • We have to pay attention to where we tend to hint with our verbal communication, but also where we tend to hint with passive-aggressive behaviour.

Links mentioned

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