Water vs. Gasoline is a term frequently used in my work. When asked what happens when you put gasoline on a fire, eyes usually get wide and the response is kind of like duh, the fire greatly increases. The follow up question to that one is what happens when you put water on a fire, and again the response comes with a common sense glare as everyone usually says in unison, “the fire goes out.” The questions are usually answered as though it’s so simple. Yet, when it comes to managing conflict in our relationships this powerful line of thinking is rarely used.
We’ve determined long ago that relationships come with challenges. Some days will be harder than others. But our focus must be, even during those challenging times, how to best deal with disagreements, conflict, and anger. We’re human and we are going to react. How we react consistently can make or break our relationships.
Lashing out and attacking won’t do it. Finger pointing, name calling or blaming definitely won’t resolve any difficult situation. The most important action we can take during any heated disagreement is to make a decision. We can decide whether or not this particular fight has warranted this reaction, if it’s worth the energy, and whether or not we want to further ignite it or extinguish it.
In the heat of the moment when emotions are flaring can one be solution focused? I argue that you can. We are more in control than we often care to admit. We can use our power for good or evil, but we always know the difference. I also contend that if we were more honest with ourselves about our intentions and motives, we wouldn’t say or do half of the things we currently do to get a reaction from our mates.
Yes, if we each tried just a little bit harder, we could actually reduce the amount of drama that shows up in our marriages.
In order to make marriage work, we have to start making decisions that lead to solutions, not create more problems. We have to decide that when conflicts arise we will be the water, completely focused on diffusing the situation and creating peace. We must also be clear on what happens as a result of being the gasoline; tempers flare, the conflict grows and can ultimately consume the relationship over time. I promise that if you take the water route instead, you won’t regret it. You will be doing exactly what is needed to reduce drama and build a healthy partnership. No, it isn’t easy, but in the end it does pay off.
BMWK — Have you been water or gasoline in your relationship conflicts.