Conflict and Tension

We all know this from personal experience, but I think there’s something valuable about saying it so plainly: Every now and then in family life, you just aren’t going to get along. For anybody who has been discouraged lately because you feel like family life has been abnormally tense, I hope it brings you a little comfort to know you’re not alone. The tension that can build in family life has all kinds of origins. Maybe work or school has been really stressful lately for somebody, and they’re taking out their frustrations at home. Maybe money has been tight lately and the stress of that is weighing on all of the adults in the home. Maybe a close loved one is dealing with a health issue or going through a tough divorce, and that’s been a weight on everybody’s mind. A list like this could go on and on, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. There are plenty of times when the conflict and tension in the home isn’t even about anything directly related to your family life. Other times, it may be the result of something going on in the home, whether that’s a personality clash or conflict that caused a wound that is slow to heal.

With all of this in mind, here are three steps you can take to help navigate these times when tension or conflict are more present than usual:

First, acknowledge that it’s real, and every family goes through it. If you’re operating under the assumption that everybody else has a peaceful home life where there are never any issues, you’re going to feel even more frustrated and confused when there is conflict in your home. However, when you realize that you’re dealing with the same kinds of things that every family deals with, it can really help to put your mind at ease so you can focus on the issue at hand.

Second, learn to say appropriate things. In moments when emotions are running high, it’s very easy to say hurtful things. It’s also much easier to say things that could be neutral in a hurtful way. That’s why it’s important to take some extra time to think before you say something during times of conflict or tension. Unless we’re choosing them carefully, words have great potential to pour fuel on the flames rather than to help de-escalate the situation.

Third, give some time and space to allow each other to have some reprieve. When everybody involved is emotionally charged, it can be helpful to take some time away from the conversation. Each person will need to figure out how they can help themselves calm down. Some people like to go for walks or car rides. Others like to read or meditate. Others like to head to the gym. Whatever helps you discharge your negative emotions and get back to a calm mental state is what you should do. That way, when you reunite, everybody will be coming back to the conversation with much clearer heads.

These three steps aren’t magic, and they won’t immediately solve all conflicts or dissolve all tension. But they are great steps in the right direction! When there is frustration in the home, whether it’s for obvious reasons or reasons you can’t even identify, that doesn’t immediately mean there is some huge underlying problem. It might just mean you need to practice some conflict resolution so that you can get back to winning at home.