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It’s been another knock down, yell out loud name calling fight. It’s the fourth one this month and the month isn’t even half way over. You’re thinking how did it end up this way? You think love him, but the non stop arguing is too much to handle at times. You have a thousand thoughts running through your head. Your friends say dump him. Your mother ask if you’re really happy? You two aren’t currently talking. What do you do? Make up, break up or wake up?

I think most of us, if not all have been in this situation before. When two or more are gathered together, there is bound to be conflict at some point in time. The question is how do you handle that conflict? Another thing to think about is, is love really enough?

Conflict is natural in every relationship. The healthiest couples use conflict as a stepping stone to greater intimacy. It does neither party any good if you pretend that the conflict doesn’t exist. Instead acknowledge it and begin a healthy dialog on what the problem is, and what steps can be taken to move past this. One of the biggest issues I see in working with couples is the need to be right, or assigning blame. And while that may feel good in the moment, it rarely leads to a positive outcome.

So should you make up, break up or wake up? I like to start by advising that you acknowledge your part in the conflict. Well what if you did not have any part in the conflict? Be honest with yourself. What led up to the problem? Were you in tune with your partner? Was there anything that you haven’t done in the relationship that you usually do? If you truly haven’t done anything to add to the conflict, what about the conflict itself? How did you handle the discussion? Did you give your partner time to explain {without interrupting or hurling accusations?} Did they feel safe while giving their side of the story? This is critical when trying to move past conflict.

Most long-term couples have learned the value of feeling safe during conflict. Safe in the context of the present moment. When we keep score of past problems and constantly bring them up, our partner is not going to feel safe. Nor are they going to want to open up with their honest feelings. There needs to be an understanding that the conflict is about what is happening now. Not what happened 2 years ago. We make choices. And if we stay in a relationship and forgive the past, it really is not fair to continue to bring it up. That is a decision that you made. And while I don’t mean to minimize this point, it is helpful to remember this in order to stay in the now.

Make up, break up and wake up? In order to decide, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind. Constant conflict is not healthy. You’ve done your part and were honest with your feelings about your part in the conflict. Now you must ask yourself if you stay, what will be different? In other words, how is change going to happen?

For some it requires a whole new skill-set. Counseling, coaching or self- help measures all can help. But here’s the thing. There has to be buy-in from both parties. I’ll use the analogy of alcoholism. There is a reason why people with a drinking problem have AA. Likewise, family members also have a tool as well in Al Anon. Why do family members need to go to meetings? For many reasons. But at the top of the list is support and learning healthy boundaries. You see just as a family decides to support the alcoholic, they too must understand the part they play. But they have made a decision to stay. And that is why when you’re in conflict, you’re going to want all the tools available to make it work. Old thinking will not produce new results. So, if you’re going to make up, both of you have to be willing participants in making it work.

What if your partner doesn’t want to get help? Does that mean that you should break up? Only you can answer that. Certainly if there is physical abuse that answer is a resounding yes. You don’t second guess. You just go. {And that means men too. If you’re girlfriend/wife is beating on you, seek help immediately.} I would hope that internal conversation would be that if your partner doesn’t want to take steps to move past conflict, that you realize that this moment is going to replay itself over and over again. If you’re pouring new energy and creativity into the relationship and getting no where, at what point do you call it quits? You’ve done the work. You’ve made it as safe as you can, but you still feel helpless. Maybe it is time to break up. But it useless unless you wake up.

Wake up? Yes! This is where you do some deep soul- searching and not date anyone for a decent period of time. There is an old saying. The best way to get past the last one is with the next one. Wrong! You’re going to need some time to heal, reflect and to find value in yourself. Far too many people go from relationship to relationship and relive the same relationship over and over again. Stop! The best relationship you can have is with yourself. For as you love yourself, you’ll begin to set the bar for what you want in the next relationship. For as you love yourself, so shall others love you in the same manner.

Make up, break up and wake up? It is always difficult to answer. Regardless of what you decide, it will take commitment on your part to make it work. Life is too short to be stuck in a dead- end relationship. Even worse, is feeling dead in the relationship you have with yourself.