Jennifer’s first instinct was to bury her feelings. When faced with the fight-or-flight analysis presented during the onset of any clash, the biggest factor many consider is how a battle with Person X will affect the romantic relationship they treasure. What should be considered is how not confronting Person X will impact the most important person in the room: you.
Causing a scene is not the answer; nor is remaining silent. The latter sends an unempowering message to the offender saying your behavior is acceptable and appropriate. Not addressing the issue at all may feel like a short-term win, but it’s really a big-picture loss. Still, there are a few relationships that must be considered in this scenario before you decide how to respond.
FIRST, manage the relationship you have with yourself. You are your best advocate and protector. Are you responding to this conflict in a way that demands respect and consideration?
NEXT, review your partnership. Is your significant other mindful of your distress while honoring how you feel during the conflict? Is he or she in tune with your sentiments and nonverbal cues?
LAST, analyze your interaction with the third party. What is he or she getting from this conflict?
After some reflection, Jennifer considered how her partner’s sibling was acting out her long-ingrained familial role as eldest child, protector and dictator. Jennifer had to accept that she could not control how her potential sister-in-law behaved. But that didn’t mean she was powerless. She could find her voice and use it in any manner appropriate for the setting. She could express her concerns to her partner and ask about his. Jennifer could set up a private discussion with the sister to share her feelings or opt to not attend events where this sibling was present. Or she could end her relationship with her significant other. Jennifer was not a victim. The choice was always in her hands.
We all have options when handling conflict-filled relationships with members of our loved one’s village. The goal is not to force your partner to choose between you and a third party because you each fill different voids. It is imperative, however, that you take a clear stance on behavior that you deem acceptable in order to maintain a healthy partnership. And that is up to you. You get to decide what level of respect you demand to maintain tolerable, nontoxic relationships with all parties involved. Be the master of your own happiness.
*Name has been changed.
S. Tia Brown is a New York City-based journalist and licensed therapist. Learn more about her at tiabrown.com.
Get Along, Gang
Need a cheat sheet for managing tense relationships with your loved one’s family or friends with a positive attitude? Consider these:
1 Address the “loathe factor.” Think about why this person’s behavior prompts you to have an adverse reaction or other feelings and issues. Does the way he/she acts offend your personal value(s)?
2 What now? Do you have an ideal, realistic solution to the problem? What can be done differently?
3 Partner up. Talk to your significant other about the conflict, share how it makes you feel and discuss the advantages of having the offender around.
4 Create an action plan. What are you both comfortable doing to diffuse the situation?
5 Save yourself. Create personal boundaries to ensure you feel safe and sane, and discuss them with your partner.