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Dealing with conflict with your partner

Relationships with the people we care about the most can often be the most challenging. Many people find that, during an argument, they end up saying things to their partner that they don't mean, leading to feelings of guilt and regret. As a result, many are afraid of even talking to their partner out of fear of starting another fight.

One thing that's important to remember is that conflict is a normal part of all relationships. Learning how to resolve conflicts and differences of opinion is a must for any relationship to flourish. If you and your partner are still committed to your relationship, it's important that you both acknowledge that this is a problem that must be addressed. It's more than likely that somewhere along the line, communication between the two of you has gone off track and you should take your share of the responsibility in order to work things through.

If you are unable to work things through, it is important to get professional help. Unresolved conflict may lead to physical and/or emotional abuse, emotional damage to your children, marital breakdown and separation.

RCC counsellors will explore your situation with you individually or in marital/couple counselling as appropriate.

The following are a few ideas on how you can start the process:

Pick a time when things are calm and the two of you are relaxed and in reasonable spirits. Picking the right time is the first step.
Explain that you really care about the relationship and you are unhappy that the two of you are arguing more than you would like.
Explain that you want things to be different and you are willing to help make them different. Ask your partner if he/she shares your perceptions of wanting to reduce conflict and make conflicts serve a more productive purpose.
Make a pact to stick to the issue when there is a difference of opinion and make every effort to avoid personal attacks or discussing outside issues.
Try to understand your partner's point of view even if you don't agree with it. Repeat what you are hearing back to your partner to see if you are hearing it accurately. Everyone feels the need to at least be heard.
If you find that you are getting no where, agree to set an issue aside for a while but remember to come back to it so that it doesn't continue to build.

Finding more time to be with your partner

No relationship is maintenance-free. Couples who want their relationship to succeed have to be willing to work at it on a regular basis. Couples today, as a result of their heavy workloads at home and at work, are left feeling tired, burnt out, guilty, rushed and frazzled. Many are also so stressed out and tired at the end of the day that they don't feel like doing much more than watch TV.

There are, however, a number of things that you and your partner can do to spend more time together.

Here are a few of our tips:

Pick a quiet time when you are both in a fairly positive mood and sit down with your partner to find out if he/she is feeling the same way. If so, state that you value the relationship and that you want to work on it.
Review some of the fun times that you've had over the years and get your partner involved in remembering and describing them. Try to draw out as much detail as you can about the good times.
Take and inventory together of what has changed since then.
Try and find a starting point. Focus on one of the fun things you used to do together and problem solve to figure out what you have to do to make room for that fun thing then try doing it again.
Make sure to tell your partner how you feel when you do have quality time together - share your good feelings about it.

How to keep your sexual relationship alive

Many couples find that after 5, 10 and 15 years of marriage they just don't seem to be having the same "sexy feelings" that they used to when they were dating or when they were first married. Often couples find that one partner wants sex more than the other.

Even healthy and successful relationships go through periods where sexual activity is not what it once was. Caring couples address this issue together and try to prevent awkward feelings from building up. Many sexual problems in relationships are not medically based but have to do with stress, communication and trust issues.

If you think there may be a medical issue, arrange to discuss it with your doctor. Doctors are trained to discuss such matters comfortably. If you don't feel comfortable discussing it with the doctor you have now, consider trying a different doctor.

Sex is a sensitive topic for many of us because most of us were raised to view it as a topic people don't talk about openly. Despite this, sex is an important part of most marital relationships and it requires communication to keep it enjoyable.

If you feel comfortable enough taking the initiative of bringing up the subject with your partner, here are a few things you might try:

Pick a relaxed time when you have some privacy and time to talk.
Find out how your partner has been feeling about the subject.
Try not to open the discussion with a complaint. Most people are very sensitive about their sexual life and their sexual performance.
If it feels tense and awkward to discuss sex, be honest with your partner and say you find this difficult but you care a lot about the relationship and you want to help make your sexual relationship more rewarding.
Share thoughts about what might be happening. For example, have you both been tired and over committed with work or family? Are you both in good health?
Try to do whatever it takes to get some private time together, time when you are not both exhausted. A weekend away is ideal but having someone take the children for a night is great too.
Discuss reconnecting with your partner on a romantic level with less physical emphasis.
Try and be more open with each other about what feels good and try to say more about what you like and less about what you don't like.

For families dealing with separation, divorce of remarriage please go to our Families in Transition webpage.

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