Researchers in the field of psychology have determined that most arguments and conflicts in relationships are reconcilable. Unspoken words that are inundated with harsh criticism and expectations of one another are conveyed when we argue with a friend, loved one, or partner. We tend to think the other person in the relationship needs to change instead of our expectations of them; even if those expectations are unrealistic (Christensen 2000). The perfect relationship does not exist; if we are mindful of that in our relationships, we will not be surprised when conflict arises and hopefully will be more open to reconciling.
Below are a few ways to help move towards reconciliation in a relationship:
- Let the positive outweigh the negative. Everyone has negative traits, nobody is perfect. By constantly focusing on the positive it can help put the value of your relationship into perspective.
- Try and see the other’s point of view. When in conflict, we tend to shut down and push others out. Staying open to your partner or friend’s viewpoint will help keep lines of communication open. Using words like “I” and “we” will foster less defensive reactions.
- Take advantage of the here and now. If there is an issue bothering you, don’t wait until later to talk about it as it can lose its context.
- Make the first move. Waiting for the other person to apologize can create a wedge in the relationship that can last a long time. Having to sacrifice being right over being happy can be difficult. However, apologizing first makes you the bigger person and it shows that you value the relationship enough to get over the conflict and move on.
- Take accountability. Saying sorry shows the other person that you are taking accountability for the part you played in the conflict and this will help foster forgiveness.
- Visualize forgiveness. Before speaking a single word, envision the conflict melting away into space; let this picture burn into your mind. This will help foster good intentions when trying to make amends.
- Relationships require compromise. There is a myth that people need to change to make the relationship work, this is false. By compromising with your partner or friend, you are showing them that they matter enough to you that you are willing to meet them where they are at. It is not realistic to expect your partner to make all the changes in the relationship.
- Be sincere. If you are trying to reconcile just to get an apology back, you may want to reconsider. Reconciling is about being unconditional so it is best not to expect anything in return.
- Have realistic expectations. Reconciling is about creating peace. You may try these suggestions to reconcile a relationship and the person might not be ready to accept forgiveness. At least you know you did everything you possibly could and now the “ball is in their court”. You can be at ease knowing you had nothing but good intentions.
More reading on reconciliation:
To Your Wellbeing,
Alea Makley, Clinical Case Manager
The MINES Team
Christensen, A. & Jacobson, N. S. (2000). Reconcilable differences. New York: Guilford Press.