Episode 84: How to Resolve Conflict in Relationships with Jaime Morgan
Brief summary of show:
How do you resolve conflicts in relationships? Are there things you can do and address in advance before situations escalate and get out of hand?
Joining me for this conversation is Jaime Morgan, a certified life coach and a Gottman Method-trained relationship coach. Combining her academic & past personal experiences of her struggles with a failed marriage, Jaime has a huge passion for helping unfulfilled & divorced women and couples to thrive in their lives & relationships again through action-oriented coaching!
Jaime is now married to the love of her life, and she lives in Canada – B.C., with her husband and two sons.
Listen in as we talk about:
[2:30] The first steps people can take when they’re dealing with conflict
[9:35] Making your relationship a priority
[13:30] How to address conflict before it happens
[18:30] What couples have the most success with when it comes to communication
[24:30] How to handle if your partner isn’t onboard with new communication tools
Notes from Natalie:
Connect with Jaime
Join Jaime's FREE FB Group VIP Abundant Life: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/6199398cb4f6fb9d86fe6fbc
Connect with Me
View Transcript for this Episode
[00:00:00] Natalie: Having conflict in your marriage, proven strategies for all relationships. Next on the podcast,
[00:00:08] Natalie: conflict, it's inevitable, right? But why does it seem so pervasive in our marriages at times? And let's be really honest, overwhelming too. Like you wanna curl up in a ball leave or scream, which is often what happens.
[00:00:24] Let's get real and let's get to work on healing and fixing conflict. Are you with me? Today's conversation is with a relationship expert. Jamie Morgan combines her academic and past personal experiences and struggles in helping couples succeed. Her work uses a research based approach to relationships.
[00:00:44] we're gonna talk about when one person just wants to leave, how to be understood, why the fight or flight adrenaline rush is so important to understand and using these methods of conflict resolution in not just your marriage, but in your life.
[00:01:00] Thanks so much for listening to the podcast. Be sure you follow me on social media for regular updates. Enjoy today's episode with Jamie Morgan.
[00:01:09] Jamie, this is one of the topics I get requests for most often, and as I like to talk about family and about couples and how we can help our relationships. But conflict is something even married for 26 years, we just have to deal with in life and in relationships.
[00:01:27] Jamie: Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And I think that that's in every, I mean, when we speak of family, it's with our kids, our partners, and even the reality is our other family members.
[00:01:38] Coworker, they say, Yeah, but everybody, right? And so I think that the tools that I help couples with are actually like, really, We can use them with everybody. I think that it's tools of communication so that we can master those relationships with people in a way that actually, when there is conflict or difference of opinion, that it brings us closer together rather than further.
[00:02:01] Natalie: Okay, well let's, let's get right into some of these tools because it's, it's inevitable we know that. What are the first steps you would tell people to take and think about when we're dealing with conflict?
[00:02:14] Jamie: Oh, I feel like the first most important thing is to own ourselves. Like to tune in. I talk about that kind of thing a lot.
[00:02:23] You know, that the, the most power we have in our. and the most, you know, power about revolving around the changes we can make in our life. I guess I could say it that way, is the changes we can make for ourselves rather than trying to change everything around us or the people around us. So when it comes to relationships and conflict, if we can tune into what we're feeling in that moment and sort of ground ourselves in ourselves to be able to come into a difference of opinion.
[00:02:56] with the awareness of what we're bringing to the table. Mm-hmm. looking inward. Does that make sense? Yes. Right. I think acknowledging sort of, our own struggle and what we can work on, not just what we want our partner to change. Mm,
[00:03:12] Natalie: Right. So true. And it's interesting that I put this into a parenting kind of frame as well and a teaching frame cuz I'm working with high schoolers and it's so common that we do come to any type of conflict with what I want, what I want or what I want instead of, Hold on, take a step.
[00:03:30] What am I feeling and kind seeing it from that other person's perspective. It's not normal. It is definitely a trained thing you have to work on. Would you agree,
[00:03:41] Jamie: ab That's exactly it. Like you said it exact like I, we have to like, I call it owning our stuff. Mm-hmm. , like own our stuff. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and recognize the habits that we're creating within our partnership.
[00:03:57] And we all have them, and it's human nature. We we're habitual about things because we create those pathways in our brains, right? Those neural pathways that are, It just makes it easier and easier the more we do it. But then what we realize over time is sometimes those pathways that we've created aren't working for us.
[00:04:13] They're. Functioning and, and you know, for example, we have a habit of getting into a yelling match or we have a temper in our relationship and this is super common, right? But oftentimes it's just that's our go-to. Our go-to is to react rather than pause in the moment and choose an action possibly, and hopefully different than what.
[00:04:38] Done in the past that when we take a big look at the big picture, it hasn't been working for us anyways. Yeah. So when we can, we can start to actually change those habits in relationship and in conflict to create new patterns within the conflict that will actually have a different and. More positive result.
[00:04:56] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:04:57] Natalie: I think you're, you're reminding me of, um, something I learned early in our marriage and it is, it probably was the hardest thing, but the light bulb that went off for me and it was that understand before being understood and it was like I just, I, I, and then I just had to like, put my hand over my mouth and go, I'm trying to understand, I'm trying, and all I wanted to do was jump in and be understood.
[00:05:19] Yes. But to really just cover your mouth and understand.
[00:05:23] Jamie: Someone else. I feel that you said that. I say that those exact words. It part of like one of the tools that I give a lot of my clients that I work with is make the goal of your communication to understand your partner while at the same time releasing the need to be understood.
[00:05:42] It's so hard. It takes a lot of faith. It takes having trust in your partner. Yeah. That they will. And it is kind of a natural response that I see in couples more often than not if. Shift your intention and shift your goal to wanna understand, get really curious about your partner, about how they're feeling, where they're coming from in a really genuine way.
[00:06:02] When you do that, you can almost see this softening that occurs. Mm-hmm. , like, it's almost like an exhale where they're like, Oh, like it allows your partner. To not be defensive and to let their guard down a bit because they genuinely can feel that you wanna understand them better. And in return, what often happens is they will reciprocate that.
[00:06:23] Once they've shared how they feel, then they actually. Are are more like likely to wanna know how you feel and ask to reciprocate all of that. And I find it's just this beautiful upward spiral in communication that can happen. Yeah. But the tricky part is starting it, so you have to be willing to be so intentional and aware to, like you said, like kind of stop yourself when you're having that knee jerk reaction.
[00:06:50] Wanna be understood to stop yourself and go, Okay, wait, I'm gonna try this differently.
[00:06:55] Natalie: Yeah. And I, I remember, and I think it's powerful being able to let someone talk until they're just done talking. And it's a little shocking too when they just keep going and keep going and keep, like, is this ever, they ever gonna stop talking?
[00:07:09] But eventually they've said everything they need to. Yes. And they have this sense, like you said, of relief and softening because it's like, Whoa, I just got to talk as long as I wanted and without being interrupted. Yeah. And then when they finally have nothing else to say, you can take a breath and be understood.
[00:07:26] Yes. And so I love that you give that advice and it's one thing to say it's another to really do it,
[00:07:33] Jamie: but . But I know, and I think with practice with that is, is. Couples are in a relationship usually by the time they come to me, Like I would love for more people to come preventatively who just want to ensure that their relationship will last and ensure like, you know, do the work so that they can not have to get to the point where they're like butting heads so much.
[00:07:58] But at the same time, more often than not, I see couples in that place where they really. Hit their rock bottom and they need to learn these skills. And I find that it's, it's the intention. It's, And usually people, when they're at that place, they're ready. They're, they won, they'll do anything to wanna make that shift.
[00:08:14] Right. But to become intentional about it, okay, I need to change and sort of get them practicing that on a, in a regular way and taking action on it. And that's like anything, like we, like I mentioned before, it's. It's about practice to create those new habits and new pathways of communication, and it just builds such a positive environment for the relationship to succeed that when you start doing it over and over again and like I brought up trust before, it builds trust between two people because once they see and feel completely certain that they will be heard and that their partner cares.
[00:08:54] it makes it easier to do the next time because they know that they've had success with it before and they know that it works. Yeah.
[00:09:01] Natalie: Yeah. So powerful. All right, so, um, other tools and tips,
[00:09:06] what we really wanna get to here is making your relationship a priority. Mm-hmm. . And part of that is working through conflict success.
[00:09:16] Jamie: It Absolutely. You know, I was trained through the Gottman Institute and part of that training, you know, they've done a lot of scientific studies on couples in their love lab in Seattle, and these are longitudinal studies of couples over time that show like actual, like things that all couples that have successful marriages that they've studied.
[00:09:40] Are the exact traits that they are doing regularly that lead to their marriage lasting versus what are the things that other couples that have a failed marriage, what are they doing? So you can kinda see it, right? And one of the things is prioritizing your relationship, making time, scheduling that out to make sure that you can learn these skills, right?
[00:10:02] Yeah. So I think like making, like if you genuinely want the relationship to last, it can, If you have two people in the relationship, That love each other and have a desire for it to last if they're willing. If you're both willing to learn these. Tools, which I love giving people tools, right? Cause it allows 'em to take action.
[00:10:20] So they see the shifts immediately because they begin practicing them and they know what to do. Yeah. And it's like we talked about getting curious and another one is managing. Managing temper. I think a lot of your listeners can probably relate. We've all had moments. I think some of us more than others, there's different styles of conflict, right?
[00:10:41] So things can get heated in relationships. And when that comes up, again, having the awareness to step back, recognize what you're feeling in your body and choosing to lower your heart rate and kind of self, um, I'm trying to think of the word they use in the training, but self soothing. That's what it is.
[00:11:01] Yes. Uhhuh. . So you're bringing your heart rate down in a really. Soft, intentional way to be able to have a more productive conversation. Yeah. Cause I don't know, have you ever heard of the fight or flight response? Oh yes.
[00:11:15] Natalie: Yes. And none of us are good in that. I mean, we do what we have to in an emergency.
[00:11:20] Hmm. But we're not thinking clearly then.
[00:11:22] Jamie: Well, I just find it fascinating. I bit of a science nerd when it comes to like physiological stuff. Yeah. But I love, like, you know, this is a, we all have this fight or flight response when our heart rates go up. Mm. Our blood gets shunted to our muscles rather than our brains to help us run away from danger.
[00:11:43] And this is like, this is something that we needed in the past, you know, as hunters and gatherers to protect ourself from wild animals and danger, Right? And it's a great response for that. But when we realize that so often in our day to day modern society, that's the state we're living in. It's just so fascinating to me cuz it makes sense.
[00:12:03] It makes sense why when we get into an argument and things get heated and we start noticing our heart rate go up and the maybe the tempers are going right, our heart rate's typically at that point are over a hundred beats per minute, and that's kind of the telltale sign. . And when you're in that state, your blood isn't going to your brain.
[00:12:21] And so we're not thinking straight, We're not in our best moment, and we start saying things. We don't mean we're irrational, we don't, we just don't, We're not able to choose our actions and our, our words like we would if we were in a calm state. Mm-hmm. . And so recognizing the science behind that I find it's just like, okay, that makes perfect sense to me.
[00:12:42] So it it does, it makes, like, I find it so interesting cuz it just. So much more sense to take a deep breath. And if you need to take a time out, take a breather and say, You know what I. This conversation is very important to me, but I need to take a break to calm down. But let's come back to it in half an hour.
[00:13:02] You know, Lemme ask you about that, because for a lot of
[00:13:05] Natalie: couples, one person runs away. Mm-hmm. , and probably because they need to calm down. But to the other person that can be. You're not willing to work on this and I need resolution right now because we, we want that right now. And so is this one of those things where in any relationship you can pre-talk before conflict and say, What are we gonna do if and when we have conflict?
[00:13:28] Or how do you coach people through
[00:13:30] Jamie: that? Exactly. Like I, I've kind of adapted a lot of the, the things I've learned along the way into, um, a way that really resonates for me. So I call it the timeout. Okay. But you've gotta have that pre-planned. Conversation ahead of time of what it's gonna look like, what it's gonna sound like, but also anticipating this.
[00:13:49] It's not, it's all finding good to talk about it when you're calm and it's just a conversation. But when you're in the midst of that tension, It can, it can be really hard to go, You know what, I really, this conversation important to me, like all of those things, but just to say like it can be something like a pre-planned script that you have that's like, this is important to me.
[00:14:11] I'll be back in 30 minutes. We shall continue this conversation, then I need to calm down and have the freedom to walk away. And what that could do for a couple is, cuz like you talked about, some people have this tendency to wanna leave other peoples, wanna hash it out until it's solved. Like there's all these things that can happen and we have different styles, right?
[00:14:30] Or silent treatment and all kinds of different ways that conflicts happen. But what happens to a lot of people when somebody leaves is if you have any hi history. Abandonment issues and that that's a really big trigger for you. It can be like really, really scary. Mm-hmm. to feel your partner leaving and then you have that uncertainty of whether they're gonna come back or not and all those things.
[00:14:51] So it doing it this way and having this conversation ahead of time can prevent so much more escalation through reactions and fear. And so I really encourage clients to pre-plan. Have a very, like, solid script that is short and simple, but that you both understand ahead of time that when I say this, this is what it means and this is why, and I'll be back.
[00:15:16] And it is a game changer for, maybe it's even a code word that it's just
[00:15:21] Natalie: like I just whatever, make something up. Puppy dog. Yeah. You know, that just kind of like, whew, I just need to breathe with some type of expectation. That. If that, if it is like a trigger of leaving, like you said, I can see that with abandonment issues.
[00:15:37] We might not think about that, but that you're gonna go on a walk, but you promise to come back if we get it within 30 minutes or something. Because that fear can make, can make the conflict
[00:15:47] Jamie: even worse. Exactly. Another key that I really think is important in conflict is keeping. You know, keeping the blame out of the game.
[00:15:57] Mm. That's hard. Yes. But it's to, I always remind people speak in eye statements and it sounds so easy to do and cliche and like, I feel. But that is, it's so important when you're having a really difficult conversation about something that maybe has the potential to be triggering or to have some intensity rising, right?
[00:16:23] To make sure you're very conscious, uh, speaking in I statement. So it's like I'm feeling really. Hurt by this or whatever it might be without, you know, the alternative would be, you're hurting me. You're this, you're, you know, you're driving me crazy. All these, when, when you find yourself point, if you can point a finger while you say it, then you're saying it wrong.
[00:16:45] Mm. Because I want, I want everybody to start using their eye statements, because nobody can deny your own feelings. Yeah. You have every right to express. What you're feeling inside, especially during these difficult conversations, and it's a way that your partner can get a, a better idea of what's happening in your inner world.
[00:17:02] You know? Yeah. People say, I'm just feeling really hurt, or When this happened, I feel very. Like all of these things and that can change the dynamic of the relationship if two people are reflecting that kind of language from each other.
[00:17:19] Natalie: Yeah. So that is such good advice because it makes you stop and think before just putting it on someone else that excuse of Well, you did, so I statements really good.
[00:18:04] Natalie: What, if I can change the conversation just a little bit, what are the things that you have seen. People, have the most success with. So couples that have endured really hard things and have made it through, and they're on the other side and they're thriving, what have you seen them do that we can learn from?
[00:18:25] Jamie: I think one of the most powerful ones, and this is one that, that I've used myself and my own relationship repetitively. And when I ask clients after I've worked with them, you know, um, what was, what was a, the most useful tool throughout this program? This is the one I hear more most often, and it's the day I, I call it a daily check-in.
[00:18:50] or a weekly check in. It depends on the state. So in the beginning when things are definitely, um, heightened and, and really kind of rocky for a couple, let's. I recommend doing it daily, and what it requires is scheduling, because I really do believe, as forced as it can feel, as unnatural as it can feel. I always, I always want everyone just, just trust me, just for, just give me a bit of time.
[00:19:14] Just trust me with this. Schedule it in because it's like our, anything in our lives when we have dentist appointments or our kids have soccer games or whatever it might be. . That is a priority for us and it's in our calendar. We make it happen. Yeah. Yeah. But so often I think we can all relate right to the things we want to do and we plan on doing, but it just never ends up happening cuz we got busy.
[00:19:36] Right? Yeah. And so this to me has to be a priority, is scheduling in a daily. Conversation and it's about checking in with your partner. And this is a conversation. It can be as little as 10 minutes or five minutes even, or it can be as long as an hour, whatever's needed or what you have time for. But the goal of it is to talk about your relationship in a really safe way.
[00:19:59] And so again, going into it, having a conversation before you start the this practice. Of saying like, this is a time specifically for us to bring up what's working and what's not working, and we're gonna put on our best listening hats and not get defensive and really go into it intentionally. Right. But it gives us this space that is designed to talk about what is hard for us or.
[00:20:28] Like I say, vice versa. We could talk about what's really going well, which is always nice to hear too, cuz sometimes things are going great. Mm-hmm. and we can then show the gratitude for our partner going, I see how hard you're working and it's, I feel so good. Thank you so much. Mm-hmm. . But having those, you know, and this isn't the time to talk about the schedule or the kids or anything, this is the time to specifically talk about just your relationship for whatever amount of time is needed in a non-defensive.
[00:20:57] Intentional way. And by doing that, as you can imagine, right? So often the big fights that get explosive and go sideways are the ones that have been brewing for a long time, where we, something's bugging us, but we, we don't wanna fight, so we avoid it. This is common, right? Oh yeah. We push it under the rug.
[00:21:20] We're like, Oh, it's just not worth it. Those kind of statements. Right. I hear all the time, and I think we've all felt them, but it's, what happens is that builds resentment and it's not going away. It's just simmering until the next thing happens, and then it gets a little bigger, and then it adds on and adds on.
[00:21:35] And before you note it, you know, we explode and it's far worse than it has to be. Yeah. So we're planning to. Daily and then eventually making a weekly, like maybe every Friday evening, you set aside amount of time to just check in, make sure you're on the same page where it's like I say, a safe space to talk about those things and that can prevent.
[00:21:59] So much problems and just in my relationship I see it in, it just, it takes the pressure off. So I find that that has been the most useful tool to help couples to, And also it, it pushes people, right? Yeah. To. It forces them to communicate. To start talking.
[00:22:16] Natalie: Start talking. Yeah. And to vow to be honest about it.
[00:22:19] Because I can see exactly like you said, like we're gonna check in, but ugh, if I check in and I say something negative, it's gonna blow up. Like to vow. I promise you I will be honest. I'm feeling this. And to be willing to deal with those emotion. And to be willing to listen when that upsets your partner, that you're upset about that, like that's the heart.
[00:22:40] Do you find that, like I find that to be one of the hardest things is you have to be willing to deal with it because a lot of people do just wanna shove it under the rug and it doesn't go away. The rug just gets a big bump
[00:22:52] Jamie: in it. , it's, It's so true. And I think kind of like what I referred to before.
[00:22:59] Helps build trust. Mm-hmm. , because the more you realize, like I call them difficult conversations, those are the conversations that we often avoid that are hard to have, that we're, that are, you know, around tense topics that might be triggering those difficult conversations once we have them successfully and realize that, wow, it's safe for me to bring up even the hardest thing because I know my partner will listen.
[00:23:27] And hear me without getting defensive and that we can have a healthy conversation. Yeah. Around something that's tough. And when that happens, like I said, like, and you have success, then it's like it's easier the next time and then it becomes like a culture within your relationship where you really just feel comfortable.
[00:23:45] Talking about anything. Yeah. As you've had this practice and this, you know, this history of it going well. Okay.
[00:23:54] Natalie: Let me ask you a hard question then, and, uh, I mean, I could talk to you forever. I know people are like, I try to keep these conversations under half an hour, but I wanna ask you a hard question.
[00:24:03] What if one person is listening to this thinking, This is so great, I love this so much, I'm gonna do this, and their partner's not willing, or, I don't wanna do a daily check in, or, that's dumb. What do you do then? Is that when we find help from someone like you ?
[00:24:18] Jamie: Well, for sure, and, and you know, I have often even worked, sometimes the partner isn't always ready.
[00:24:26] Mm. And that's okay. But what has worked, um, for a lot of my clients is I'll work, whether it's, it's usually the female, I'll be honest, it's mm-hmm. it and I don't wanna stereotype or anything, but I have found in my practice that it is more often than not the female that is really eager to do the work.
[00:24:45] That's not always the case. Mm-hmm. . But, um, and so I might say, well, work, work with me and how, what is really helpful is I can, you know, teach one. Um, person within the partnership, the tools, and we can really talk it out. And even just that one person having that shift within themselves and a deeper understanding of the problems and how to manage communication, their partner will benefit from it because they will see a shift in their partner.
[00:25:17] And more often than not, they wanna rise to the occasion. They wanna, they see the communication changing, their reactions changing in their partner and. You know, they get curious about it. The other thing is, is I, I always give my, I call it homework, but you know, the tools like, okay, for the next week or two, try this and, and maybe sit down and I call them couch dates, , but have a couch date, schedule a couch date in and go over the homework together.
[00:25:43] It doesn't have to be, Painful. Yeah. Like if that person's not ready yet, but maybe they're willing to have a 15 minute glass of wine and just hear what you've been learning and go, you know. You know. So sort of frame it in a like, what if we tried this? Would you be willing if we tried this? I just have this little exercise that I was given and I think it might come in handy for us.
[00:26:05] And there's just, you know, that's one example, but there's lots of ways. Starting those conversations where it, and I, you know, I get it, it can feel very threatening for some people to enter into a coaching, you know, relationship with somebody that maybe they don't know, and it feels weird to share your dirty laundry and, and go there.
[00:26:26] It takes courage and so sometimes it's baby steps, right? And, and so I often will work with one partner, but more often than not, somewhere along the journey, the, the second partner definitely joins in.
[00:26:39] Natalie: Well, you gotta start somewhere and you know, if you can give someone the tools that helps disarm the other one, um, put yourself in a better place.
[00:26:49] Jamie: And I really do believe the most powerful work that we can do on our relationship is the work we do on ourselves. Oh, so true. Yes. So like you were saying, if one person's not ready for the work, that one person who is. diving in and having the courage to just sort of own their stuff and look inward.
[00:27:08] Mm-hmm. is gonna have a really powerful effect on the relationship. Yeah. Even by working just on themselves.
[00:27:14] Natalie: Yeah. I agree. I've learned so much. There's such great information. Thank you. Oh, good. Okay. You're welcome. Give people a place to go to find you and to keep a
[00:27:25] Jamie: learning. Well, I'm at the Jamie Morgan on Instagram, so I would love for your followers to follow me there.
[00:27:31] But I would also love, I've got a free Facebook group called The Abundant Life, and within that group I post so many meditations. They're short, they're sweet for every level. They're guided, and it's just to help people because so much of this transformation journey in relationships and in personal growth, Learning to tune into what we're feeling in our body and understanding that.
[00:27:55] And so I really explain it really well within that group. And I post everything there regularly. That is forever in the in the feed. So it's a great place just to sort of see a bit more of what I'm about. And yeah, I would love for your followers to find me there.