Human relationships are complicated. Sometimes the people in our lives who bring us the most joy can also cause the most pain. You can imagine who those people are in your own life. Perhaps you can even think of some interpersonal conflicts going on between your close family and friends right now.
Why is this? Isn’t family supposed to stick together? Shouldn’t longtime friends be able to sort out their differences?
It stands to reason that if someone is important to me, what they say and do has a greater emotional impact. Also, these are the people we interact with in the most meaningful ways, whether or not they’re a part of our daily lives.
For many, approval from parents, spouses, children, and extended family is incredibly important. Even those who have reached pinnacles of success in their career and creative endeavors can still crave approval from their close family and friends. This kind of insecurity often leads to interpersonal drama, as feelings get stepped on and tempers flare.
Sometimes the people who matter most to us can be tough to love in their behaviors and attitudes. Stubbornness and pride can keep us from approaching these situations with humility and honesty. Simply put, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to difficult relationships.
However, you can take steps to make room for peace in your own mind and become better prepared to patch things up when the time comes.
- Recognize that you are vital. Yes, even you. Your value doesn’t depend on the opinions of others, even your family. You matter because you’re you, and that’s enough.
- Remember that they are vital too. It can take a long time to unravel the reasons why someone got upset, offended, or distant. The only way to do that honestly is by recognizing why you care in the first place: this person matters to you.
- Learn something new. When you get a chance to interact with someone you love in the midst of conflict, do more listening and less talking. You may have a lot to say to them, but you’ll be able to say it better when you hear them out.
- Don’t become obsessed with blame. Repeated abusive behavior should not be tolerated. You deserve to be treated with love and respect from your family and friends. At the same time, many regular conflicts can go on much longer than they need to when blame takes center stage. When we’re preoccupied with placing blame, it can keep us from reconnecting and finding a way forward.
Sometimes, people drift apart from their loved ones and there are cases where that might even be warranted. But too often our most vital relationships go silent or become cold simply because the people involved are too hard-headed to admit their own responsibility.
We can’t control our family and friends, and the world wouldn’t be any better if we could. What makes our relationships so valuable is the time and work we put into them.
Journal it out.
If you need to have a heart-to-heart with someone important in your life, you’re probably struggling with what to say. Rather than playing and replaying the argument in your mind, take a moment and put your thoughts down on paper. And then, give yourself a chance to consider it in silence.
There’s no easy fix for interpersonal conflict, especially with those you love the most. Your first step is to recognize why it matters so much to you in the first place.