Keeping The Peace

Keeping the peace in relationships can be a challenge.  Any time any of us feel stressed at work, at home, anywhere, we tend to take it out on those who are closest to us, who we feel most secure with and who we trust, namely our spouses and significant others.  Added to that, when we feel insecure in those relationships, we often do things, like nag, micro-manage, become defensive, put up walls, become silent and withdrawn etc., all of which increase the bickering and feelings of insecurity, and an uncomfortable rockiness that no one enjoys in a relationship is intensified.

If you are in a rough situation, there are a few easy changes that you can make (with a bit of effort on your part) to reset the course and infuse the relationship with the spirit of generosity.  Remember, when either partner feels happy, loved and secure we are generally willing to let one insensitive comment roll off our backs, but if we are feeling constantly on edge, that comment could lead to another argument.

The central key to keeping the peace with your partner is in facilitating that spirit of generosity and compassion.  This is easier said than done.  It requires us to stay silent and listen when we want to shut down or yell.  It requires us to go out of our way to do something nice when we are pressed for time or when we do not really feel like it.  Generally, when we are feeling like it takes more effort to reverse course, it signals an even greater need to make that effort.

Here are some easy ways to integrate this method into your relationship:

Show and articulate appreciation:  Most of us at one time or another feel underappreciated and undervalued in our relationships. Analyze your relationship and ask yourself what things your partner does that you are comfortable with.  For example: if a woman is the one who sits with her children to do homework the majority of the time, perhaps she would be impressed and moved by any attempt that the husband makes to not only lighten that load, but also overtly recognize his efforts.

Compliment Sandwich:  This is a technique we learned when giving feedback to students on their writing assignments, but it carries over nicely into other relationships. We are more likely to accept constructive criticism if it is surrounded by compliments. It often requires a deep breath but the rewards are invaluable. Instead of immediately attacking your partner for something he/she did, you may want to add to your comment, something that you appreciated, preferably about the same behavior. For example: If you disagreed with how your husband disciplined one of the children, begin your discussion with how much you appreciate their instinct to protect the child. Offer an alternative solution, then remind them that their protective quality is what drew you to them in the first place.

Make a Grand Gesture:  Grand gestures do not have to be expensive. They only need to take effort or ingenuity. Be sincere, personal, and meaningful.

Appreciate the Details:  Arguments tend to cover similar themes and these themes generally are connected to our own insecurities.  One way that you can increase feelings of generosity and security is to address these anxieties.  Tell husband what an amazing husband and parent he is, especially if you recently had an argument when he felt that you doubted him.

If you put in a bit of effort to change your behavior, it is likely that your partner will follow suit. We are social creatures, and we also crave routine.  So it is important to resist negative patterns by replacing them with positive ones.