Conflict Resolution

Online Lovers Quarrels: A Whole New Ball Game

George Wood asked:

Throughout the ages, one of the hardest things about romantic relationships has always been resolving conflict. Those wise couples that work hard at their love affairs seem to develop rules to govern how they will behave when they fight. But in a face-to-face argument, you have the input from facial expressions, the sound and inflection of voice, and many other clues to let you know what he or she is really saying.

But in our modern world, a new kind of romantic relationship is becoming common that you may be thinking about or involved in. These are romances conducted on the internet. Cyber-relationships are exciting and fun and full of adventure. They take some getting used to, though, because instead of communicating through the spoken word and eye contact, so much of what goes on occurs in emails, instant messaging exchanges, and chat rooms.

Learning how to navigate this world requires almost a whole new language. We have to learn about how chatters talk using acronyms and little faces called emoticons. But in a world where every romantic opportunity could be the one you were meant to be with, we do not want to look away from any world of romance that holds potential.

However, just as conflict and arguments get tricky in face-to-face romances, the problem is compounded significantly with a cyber-relationship where so much of what we say and communicate occurs just through words and even happens with greater spans of time. If you get a message from your lover that hurts your feelings, causes pain or grief, you need some ways to figure out how to resolve it successfully to get the relationship back on track to romance and excitement again. So lets set up some rules for getting past the fight and back to that lovey-dovey relationship you both so enjoy. – Think before you hit send: If the fight is occurring through email, you have some time before you have to respond. Even in instant message chats, your responses can be slower than in a face-to-face fight. Teach yourself not to go with your first reaction and try to use the delay of the internet to think before you lash out and make matters worse. – Review, review, review: Even when you do draft your response, go back and read what he or she wrote before you hit send. It is very likely you may not have read it correctly and once you get the real message they are sending , you can revise your response. – Take it at face value: The problem with email or instant messages is you only have the words. So try not to read attitude or mood into the message. A common mistake is if the person writes in all capital letters, they must be angry. It takes discipline not to impose your feelings and anxieties on the chat and give yourself perspective, but you can avoid countless misunderstandings that way. Also, do not be sensitive about spelling or punctuation in these exchanges. It does not mean they are insulting you or do not know how to write, they are just in the passion of the moment, just like you are. – Use your lifelines: If the exchange gives you some time, such as email often does, go ahead and discuss the fight with your family or close friends. The one thing that goes out the window in any fight is your objectivity and perspective so use someone elses to get a feel for what may be going on.

Discuss your conflict resolution rules with your sweetheart at times when you are on good terms and lay down some guidelines. Then when the fight is in full engagement, you both can reference those rules and throw some water on the fire before it damages something important to both of you.

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