After a break up, it's important to reflect on what you learnt from the relationship and ask yourself some key questions.
1. What did I learn about how I handle conflict?
Conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything, all the time. The key is not to fear or try to avoid conflict but to learn how to resolve it in a healthy way.
When conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great harm to a relationship, but when handled in a respectful, positive way, conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between two people.
Conflict arises from differences, both large and small. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences appear trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. These needs can range from the need to feel safe and secure or respected and valued, to the need for greater closeness and intimacy.
In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing needs can result in distance, arguments, and break-ups.
When you can recognise conflicting needs and are willing to examine them with compassion and understanding, it can lead to creative problem solving and stronger relationships.
Did you communicate clearly?
Did you listen carefully without interrupting?
Did you develop a plan to work on the conflicts and follow through?
2. How did I feel about myself when things were difficult?
Do you fear conflict or avoid it at all costs?
If your perception of conflict comes from painful memories from early childhood or previous unhealthy relationships, you may expect all disagreements to end badly.
You may view conflict as demoralising, humiliating, or something to fear. If your early life experiences left you feeling powerless or out of control, conflict may even be traumatising for you.
If you’re afraid of conflict, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you enter a conflict situation already feeling threatened, it’s tough to deal with the problem at hand in a healthy way. Instead, you’re more likely to either shut down or blow up in anger.
3. How do I manage my hurt feelings.
Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort.
When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and break-ups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases your understanding of the other person, builds trust, and strengthens your relationships.
If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs.
This will make it hard to communicate with others and establish what’s really troubling you.
For example, couples often argue about petty differences—the way she cooks, the way he snores—rather than what is really bothering them.
It is important to feel what you need to feel and express your hurt. Have self-compassion and focus daily on what you can do that makes you happy, for your own well-being.
4. What positives can I take from this experience?
Personally, my positives are my three children and now eight grandkids, who wouldn't be here if I hadn't married my ex.
I've had to learn strong boundaries and how to stay centred and in control, so I no longer become overwhelmed in conflict situations and unable to respond in healthy ways.
So what are your positives?
5. What is something I would change if I could go back in time?
I would have more emotional awareness, which I understand now, is the key to understanding yourself and others. Not knowing how or why you feel a certain way, causes bad communication which will not resolve disagreements.
Although knowing your own feelings may sound simple, many people ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. Your ability to handle conflict, however, depends on being connected to these feelings. If you’re afraid of strong emotions or if you insist on finding solutions that are strictly rational, your ability to face and resolve differences will be limited.
Emotional awareness helps you to:
Understand what is really troubling other people
Understand yourself, including what is really troubling you
Stay motivated until the conflict is resolved
Communicate clearly and effectively
Interest and influence others
I would also be more aware of reading my ex's body language and truly listen to what he was really saying. Plus aware of my own feelings and in touch with my own deep-rooted needs.
6. What are non-negotiables for me in terms of a partner?
For me, in a nutshell it would be trust and humour
You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements by communicating in a humorous way. Humour can help you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without offending someone. However, it’s important that you laugh with the other person, not at them. When humour and play are used to reduce tension and anger, reframe problems, and put the situation into perspective, the conflict can actually become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.
What are yours?
Heather Prince is founder of Fearlessly Moving Forwards Method