Relationships Are Easy

Conflict

Relationships are easy.

I understand that people have experienced real struggles in their relationships. I am not trying to discredit those experiences or say they weren’t real. I too have experienced struggles in my relationships.

What I am saying here is that none of it is necessary.

In a previous Facebook post I wrote, “You can interpret disagreements and misunderstandings as conflict, or you can interpret them as opportunities to explore the other person.”

Couples here in Japan often talk about how they regularly argue. They seem to believe that arguing is an unavoidable reality and take comfort in the fact that other couples around them are experiencing the same quality of relationship.

But does it really have to be that way? Does true intimacy necessitate conflict?

I had a friend recommend and lend to me a book on marriage that started with the premise that marriage will be hard work, no matter how good your relationship is. That was in the introduction. I didn’t read any further.

I know people who have married believing that “marriage is hard work.” In their experience, it indeed has been hard work. I also know people who have married believing that “marriage is easy.” In their experience, it indeed has been easy.

What you expect is what you get.

The same is true for all other kinds of relationships – family, friends, co-workers, those you live with, etc.

You may be wondering how, on a practical level, I can believe this. It all hinges on the concept within the post that I quoted above.

Arguments are based on the assumption that differences are bad. Under this assumption, when a difference in opinion or action is encountered, the default reaction is to get defensive (when they don’t like what you do) or offensive (when you don’t like what they do).

When we choose to feel threatened by people who say or do something differently than we would, we will want to control them. We will try to get them to think or act like us or suppress their feelings concerning what we say or do.

On the other hand, when we choose to appreciate them for who they are, we will seek to understand why they are different than us. It will launch you into an adventure of understanding who they are and what makes them think and act the way they do. You will gain a new perspective on them and adjust how you approach them.

If agreement is the goal in your relationships, you will live in a state of perpetual conflict because no one fully agrees with anyone. There’s something about cultivating an ability to be okay with disagreement that enables you to enjoy other people for who they are, no matter where they are at in life.

I’m not saying there will never be incompatible interests. I’m saying that those occasions needn’t give rise to conflict and instead are an opportunity for love.

Selfishness is rooted in thinking that your desire and another’s, what is best for you and best for them, are at odds, that it must be one or the other. This is simply not true.

Humans are interconnected, and the satisfaction of one cannot be separated from that of another. Your happiness makes me happy, and your sadness makes me sad. Further, the greatest pleasure is found in loving others. As Jesus explained it, giving is happier than receiving.

I also recognize that people can do stupid stuff, but confronting them when their behavior persists doesn’t have to be a big deal. It feels like a big deal for some of us because we grew up in cultures and environments in which such feelings and thoughts are suppressed (unless they build up to the point of explosion). But, really, it can be dealt with easily by telling them how what they do makes you feel. If they care about you, they will change their behavior accordingly.

This is usually not practiced because of fear. People may give other reasons, but I think it boils down to this. Confronting someone means revealing that you think differently than they do, thus creating a situation in which conflict is a possible outcome.

As I explained earlier, however, it never has to head in that direction. What it comes down to is trust. Can they trust that your confrontation is not a personal affront but rather an act of vulnerability in which you open your heart up to them? Conversely, can you trust that, when you open yourself up to them, they will not judge or take offense at you?

Take the risk.

Love deeply.

And discover that it is the most fun yet least difficult way of life.

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