We’ve been writing a lot lately about the mindset that helps you reduce conflict. The other day, I mentioned the idea of paying attention to your “self” when you’re angry, which often helps you realize that the part of you that’s angry is not really “you.” Ian recently mentioned that it’s helpful to ask yourself what part you play in a conflict – rather than blaming the other person, it can be helpful (and often quite humbling) to recognize that it takes ‘two to tango’ and that the conflict you’re involved in probably wouldn’t exist without your involvement.
I received that lesson in a powerful way in marriage. About three years into my second (and last!) marriage, I remember what a shock it was to realize that I was having some of the same disagreements with my wife that I had with my first wife. Here I was, madly in love with this woman and fully aware of her many positive traits and her wonderful, womanly radiance, and, having carefully considered all the aspects of marriage and compatibility, and having decided to marry her and to spend the rest of our lives together, and yet absolutely, positively convinced that I was right about such and such a point and doing everything to convince her of my rightness in a not very productive manner.
It hit me like a dope-slap from the Jolly Green Giant – I was creating the same sorts of conflicts in my new relationship as I had done in my first marriage! Two different women, same dude. Two wonderful, talented women, same unpleasant Mr. Grouchy-Pants. Hmmm. There was no denying it, darn it, I was causing the problems. It’s been humbling, but truly helpful in getting me to question the validity of my crankiness. I don’t recommend that you get divorced and remarried just for the sake of self-improvement, but are there any situations where you’ve had the perspective to realize that you might be the cause of inter-personal conflict?