Last month I had a question show up in my inbox that actually had me puzzled for a bit. Not that the question was difficult at all, but that I honestly didn't think about how I handle it in our relationship, so I got up and asked KM. He assured me that my thought process on what the answer was, was correct. Thank goodness! So, what was the question about?
I think one reason that the answer didn't come to me straight away is that KM and I don't argue on a regular basis. I'd have to say we have one or two major disagreements a year that would be considered a relationship argument. For the sake of comparison, my ex and I used to fight almost every week; slamming doors, yelling, cursing, the whole bit. I guess that KM and I blessed to be able to talk about things without the need to yell or bottle them up until they burst.
Not everyone is so lucky though, so how should you handle arguments in a D/s relationship?
First, don't run away from the conflict. If you dump someone just because of conflict you will constantly be searching for a perfect partner and none will ever exist. Resolving conflicts in relationships is a very valuable life skill to develop. You need to learn to work on the problem and strive to come up with solutions that meet the needs of the relationship together. I know you've heard this before, but the only person you can change is you. The only attitude you can change is yours. You can't make someone else change for you - no matter how badly you want them to. (Yes, even in a D/s relationship where a submissive is learning new behaviors, they are doing it because they want to do it; just for different reasons.)
1. Cool Off
Tempers flare in an argument. Take a moment to go to your proverbial corners to cool off before facing the problem. You'll never resolve the issue if you can't think and talk about it calmly and really listen to the other person.
Take a moment and brainstorm 10 ways you can cool off and regain your composure. Consider the following: make a cup of coffee or tea, take a short walk, step outside and look up into the sky, take 5 long, deep breaths, read a favorite poem or quote, close your eyes for a moment and count to 10, write in a journal and then come back together to work out the problem. Way ways work best for you?
2. Approach as Equals
You should always approach problems as equal partners, even if D/s is the issue. Maintaining roles will just get in the way of progress in conflict resolution. Even those of us in 24/7 type relationships can recognize when being Dominant and submissive will not make things easy.
Drop your idea that one of you is the Dominant and the other is the submissive and look to each other as partners in a relationship.
3. Use "I" Messages
"I messages" are a tool for expressing how you feel without attacking or blaming. By starting with "I" you take responsibility for the way you perceive the problem.
This is in sharp contrast to "you messages" which put others on the defensive and close doors to communication. A statement like, "You've left the kitchen a mess again! Can’t you ever clean up after yourself?" will escalate the conflict. Now take a look at how differently an "I message" comes across: "I’m annoyed because I thought we agreed you’d clean up the kitchen after using it. What happened?"
4. Brainstorm Solutions Together
Brainstorming Solutions is a creative act. Coming up with solutions together will help you realize that there are probably several ways to solve your problem. When you can decide on a compromise together it will strengthen your resolve to make it work.
Three Types of Healthy Solutions:
- Win-win. Most conflicts are in areas that have more than two alternatives. If you do not like the choice your partner wants, and your partner does not like your choice, with a little more effort you might be able to find another alternative that you both like and want.
- No lose. When you cannot find an alternative that you both want, look for an option that is acceptable to both of you, or negotiate an agreeable compromise. Neither gets everything he/she wanted, but each gets enough to be satisfied.
- Win-lose equally. When the conflict is over an issue that has only two choices, one person will get what he/she wants and the other will not. There will be a winner and a loser. If you are fair with each other and generally half the time each gets your own way; it will be easier for each of you when you don’t. The loser will trust that next time or the time after that he/she will be the winner. (from Relationship Conflict: Healthy or Unhealthy)
5. Forgive or Thank Them
A handshake, hug, or kind word gives closure to the resolution of conflicts. Forgiveness is the highest form of closure. Just saying thank you at the end of a conflict, or acknowledging the person for working things out sends a message of conciliation and gratitude. We preserve our relationships this way, strengthening our connections and working through problems that arise.
- When was the last time you were in an argument with your partner? How did you resolve it?
- Any other tips for conflict resolution?