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Advice for Newlyweds: 5 Main Sources of Conflict and Steps to Resolve Them

Advice for Newlyweds: 5 Main Sources of Conflict and Steps to Resolve Them

In the US, couples tying the knot spend on average $20,000 on their wedding. Meanwhile, 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.

Although “happily ever after” is not guaranteed–no matter what type of wedding you have–there are things you can do to make it more likely. Because disagreement is normal, the ability to fight fair is key.

For newlyweds and others looking to build a healthy relationship, here are the five main sources of conflict and steps to resolve them:

Source of conflict #1: Clashing values and priorities.

Before you make any long-term commitment, explore whether you have compatible values and priorities. Do you both want kids? Do you have shared financial goals? Are the dreams and vision you have for your relationship in line with your partner’s?

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Ignoring the warning signs or failing to evaluate whether your partner meets your must-haves often leads to frustration when the novelty of the relationship wears off.

Solution: Establish mutually agreed upon standards before tension mounts.

When you have a disagreement, stick to the issue at hand and don’t bring up old, unresolved problems. Listen with empathy and stay open to alternatives. Pick your battles; a disagreement doesn’t always require a drawn-out argument or lengthy discussion.

Accept that each of you has different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Having and showing respect for each other is critical. Realize you will likely need to exercise mutually acceptable options, instead of getting all your preferences met.

Source of conflict #2: Money issues.

Studies show that money is the number one problem in marriages and the primary cause of divorce. Merging two lives forces you to scrutinize your spending habits because it’s bound to affect the other, even if you each earn your own income.

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Solution: Resolve financial issues right off the bat.

It’s always best to discuss money matters before you marry or make any other long-term commitment.  If you postponed the talk, do it as soon as possible thereafter. Discuss each other’s personal debt and come up with a plan to settle it.

Keep a separate account for your individual expenses to maintain your financial freedom. Agree on how you will use your joint account for shared expenses. Create a realistic household budget and set ground rules for how you will manage it. Live within your means and don’t make excuses for buying expensive things you really can’t afford.

Source of conflict #3 : Unmet expectations.

Making wedding plans, including the guest list, flowers, cake and location, are trivial matters compared to agreements you make about your relationship. Unmet expectations–from how your partner greets you in the morning to the type of support he provides when you’re feeling down–can lead you to be critical and judgmental.

Solution: Make direct requests.

Commit to building a strong foundation through open, honest, and daily communication. Your partner is not a mind-reader. Make direct requests for what you want and need, rather than complain about what’s missing. Refrain from personal attacks and name-calling. Discuss the behavior and actions that upset you and the changes you would like to see.

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Having the capacity and willingness to grow together is a vital ingredient in committed relationships. But while you can expect your spouse to change through his or her efforts, with your encouragement and over time, don’t expect to change your spouse just on your say-so.

Source of conflict #4: Divergent interests.

Shared activities, such as traveling, cooking, dancing, and brainstorming solutions to mutual problems, allow you to strengthen your bond and build positive memories. Spending quality time together helps you to grow together and avoid growing apart.

But how you do thrive as a couple when your interests diverge? What if you like romantic comedy movies while your partner can’t stand them?  Or you like to try ethnic restaurants and he or she prefers to cook dinner at home? Do you make compromises on whether to see the play or go to the football game?

Solution: Encourage individuality.

While it’s great to spend time with your spouse and hang out with mutual friends as a couple, maintaining your individuality is equally important.

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Invest in your own hobbies and activities. Cultivate and maintain friendships outside the social circle you share with your spouse. Agree to engage in things by yourself or with others that would simply bore or agitate your partner.

Source of conflict #5: Household chores and responsibilities.

Unfulfilled promises about who does what around your shared home creates discontent. There can also be tension over what constitutes an ideal household or tidy home. One might hate seeing dirty clothes on the floor, while the other can’t tolerate dirty dishes in the sink.

Solution: Divide and conquer.

Make core agreements about who’s responsible for which household chores and responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be exactly 50/50. You could agree to each focus on the tasks that you prefer doing. For example, one can do the cooking while the other cleans. Or agree to take turns doing certain chores that you both dislike.

Live up to your promises or renegotiate upfront when you can’t. Divide and conquer household responsibilities rather than whine about who did or who didn’t do what.

* * *

While these solutions can help you resolve conflict, you are the expert on your own relationship. Learn from your mistakes, be patient with yourself and with your partner, and apply what works for you.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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