I would follow him. Escalating. Getting louder and more frantic. I felt unheard and like he didn’t care about the issue… or me. And worse, his walking away triggered my fear of abandonment.
It was a hot mess. We were a hot mess.
Between our differences in communication styles, our family of origins handling of conflict (his was passive aggressive and avoided at all cost, mine was frequent and loud), our preferred routes of safety, our as-of-then-unidentified personal communication values and lack of personal communication boundaries, our discomfort even discussing conflict itself (not even when we weren’t in conflict) and even our personality styles, we didn’t have a clue how to have healthy conflict.
We didn’t fight a lot, in fact, we rarely had a “fight.” Because he wouldn’t fight. But that didn’t mean it was all good, that we were fine, that there wasn’t conflict. At one point I may have screamed “WOULD YOU JUST FIGHT WITH ME AND THEN AT LEAST I’LL KNOW YOU CARE?”
It wasn’t good or healthy.
Getting therapy helped us both work on our stuff but we still had to figure out how to have healthy productive conflict that could deepen our connection.
And eventually, we did just that.
We have agreements around how we have conflict, we’re clear on our purpose, values, and goals in having conflict, and we have an understanding of how each other hears/feels heard. Our communication values have been identified and our communication boundaries are explicit. We each recognize our responsibilities in conflict including respecting our personal limits. I know that private retreat is an important route of safety for him and he knows that I need for him to agree on when and where we’ll address an issue and that he will come back then so I also feel safe.
This month we celebrate 26 years together. We still don’t fight but we do have plenty of healthy conflict. We’re deeply in love today and I believe that is strongly in part BECAUSE we worked together to have a detailed plan and strategy for how we approach conflict in our relationship, parenting, and life together.
PS: We’ve shared the safe process we’ve worked on to help us have healthy, safe, and productive conflict here.
For more on private relationship coaching with Jessica and Jeremy, click here.
Pic from a recent trip in Washington where we peeked into an ice cave and took a selfie in front of it because we were in no way equipped to actually explore the cave.