When a conflict looms large it can begin to feel like the only thing left between you. That’s an error of perception, of course. You are not one-dimensional figures with a single agenda; neither of you has become that. The conflict has blocked your views of each other as the multi-dimensional humans you really are. Don’t let it.
A woman calls me to discuss a conflict she’s facing. She talks about the frustration, the sadness, the way the conflict is always there, overshadowing so many of each day’s interactions with her partner, coloring how they both see the future. She asks me, How do I know there’s still hope for us?
How do you find hope in the face of conflict? It is a very fine question and one I am asked often in various forms: How do you know you can help us? Do you think I’m crazy to try one last time to change the conflict between us? I’m out of hope but keep thinking there must be something we haven’t tried yet. Is it worth it to try or are we wasting our time? Do you think there’s hope, Tammy?
At first blush, it seems an unanswerable question. It seems to require a crystal ball or for me to divine an answer from the air. But that isn’t the case. There is a way for her to glean how much of the relationship still feeds her soul, for her to see if there’s enough there to make it worth her effort. I tell her what I have suggested to many possible clients over the years.
I say, Go for a walk or a hike. Go out for dinner. Go to the amusement park. Go snowshoeing. Go skateboarding. Go anywhere you can be together without agenda and can talk freely. There is only one rule: You both must agree to pretend there is no heavy conflict between you, just for the period you’re out together. Talk about anything but the conflict or things that have fed the conflict. Spend your time talking about the things you enjoy talking about when there’s no conflict, laugh about the things that make you both laugh. Remember what it felt like before there was so much conflict that you couldn’t see past it. See what you see, see what you feel.
Try to do this a few times. Make the brief commitment to play pretend for a little of your time together. You don’t have to play the game forever, just for long enough to get a glimpse of what it’s possible to feel again.
You have so many dimensions, so much about you that is outside of this conflict. You are like a beautiful glass marble, full of color, something interesting about you from every angle. So is he. So is she.
To find hope in the face of conflict, you must remind yourself what he or she is like outside of the conflict. You must see around the conflict as much as possible, see whether or not he is a person you want to continue with if the conflict is not separating you. You must see her as the multi-dimensional person she is.
That is where hope lives.