We use our friction to help us grow, individually and together.
"Your friction is a good sign; you're being called to grow." This is one of the first things I say to reassure new couples coming to counseling. When handled in a proactive way, the challenges in our relationship are not only a part of a natural, positive process of transformation; they should ultimately create more closeness. We don't want to just go through it but grow through it. As the African proverb says: Smooth seas never make skillful sailors.
According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, the universe is our mirror. Everything can be seen as happening for us, not to us—to show us something we need to learn or change. This mirroring of our growth shows up most especially in our committed relationships. We are here to love one another more fully and push each other to grow. So rather than avoiding, blaming, or rushing to make the tension go away, we benefit most to embrace our times of challenge. Turn within. Practice self-knowledge. Examine how your partner's grievances or behavior might be bringing to the surface the very issue you know is yours to heal and overcome. Maybe it's to set better boundaries, show others more sensitivity, let go of control, overcome your fear of confrontation, or to take better care of yourself. How might you be stagnant as a couple?
Importantly, emotionally reactive diatribes filled with put-downs and words we can never take back are not what I mean by embracing the friction. Learning tools and skills for creating what I like to call healing conversations is one way to make the most of our times of struggle.
To make the conflict work for us and not against us, I recommend using Imago Dialogue, a powerful communication tool that helps awaken love during disagreements. Learning to employ three active listening skills—mirroring, validation, and empathy—the goal is to keep defensiveness away so both partners feel heard and understood. It's OK if partners don't agree. Feeling heard is indistinguishable from feeling loved, which opens our hearts' capacity for compromise and care.