Let me share something that has helped me a lot:
In every relationship, there are three parts. You. Me. Us.
You and Me are separate from each other (yes I know that it’s “I” not “Me” in this tense but never mind that). We are independent of each other. We have our own lives apart from each other.
But Us is this third thing between You and Me. Us is the combination of our interactions, our history with each other, our communication patterns.
You and Me may be healthy, wonderful, mature people. But the Us between You and Me could have a lot of problems. It’s like Nutella and Sriracha. Both are good things that don’t work well together.
This idea of Us is important to remember if we get in conflict. Because if I say “I want to talk about Us”, you may think I’m saying “I have a problem with You.” Then when I share the problems I’m having with Us, you could think that I’m attacking You.
In conflict, You and Me can seem like we’re on opposite sides. But maybe we’re actually on the same side. Maybe both of us recognize that Us isn’t working, and we want to fix it. Hopefully, neither of us want a dysfunctional Us. Maybe we need to change how we do Us to make our lives as You and Me better.
So if I have a friend who takes up a lot of space in conversation, I don’t have to say, “You talk too much.” I can say “In our conversations, I would appreciate it if I had more space to talk.” This way, I share what I want to get out of Us, instead of blaming You.
I’m not saying that this approach works all the time. Sometimes there may really be an issue with You. But this approach has helped me navigate conflict well.