Two people walking during sunset

Olive branches and love

Amidst the serene olive groves, where olives and olive branches sway gracefully in the breeze, I contemplated the Israel-Palestine conflict.

My heart ached, wishing that Israelis and Palestinians could be nurturing the fruits of their shared land instead of shedding blood upon it. As I immersed myself in the ancient trees, a profound sense of peace enveloped me. It was born of appreciation, respect, and a deep connection with nature. During those tranquil hours, blame seemed distant, a relic of the past.

Much like the impulsive decisions made during divorce, some individuals find themselves caught in the Israel-Palestine conflict, realizing that their actions were rash and short-sighted. They later lament the unnecessary turmoil, echoing the regret of couples who engage in bitter disputes over trivial matters during separation.

The Israel-Palestine conflict, deeply rooted in history and complexity, serves as a stark embodiment of Dale Carnegie’s timeless wisdom: “You can’t win an argument; you can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” For years, both sides have relentlessly pursued victory, believing it would bring about peace. However, the cycle of suffering and violence persists, unveiling the painful truth that the pursuit of ‘victory’ often sacrifices dialogue, compromise, and empathy.

The parallels between the Israel-Palestine conflict and relationship disputes are undeniably profound. In the midst of heated arguments, both partners frequently vie for the coveted title of ‘winner’. They hurl accusations, engage in emotional manipulation, and seek dominance. Yet, as Carnegie sagely observed, the relentless pursuit of ‘winning’ tends to obscure the bigger picture: the maintenance of a loving and harmonious partnership.


Why chasing ‘victory’ falls short?


  1. Erosion of trust: Just as the Israel-Palestine conflict has experienced a gradual erosion of trust, disputes within couples can lead to the withering of trust. When one party feels unheard, disregarded, or disrespected, trust dwindles, making future resolutions more challenging.


  1. Escalation: In both geopolitical conflicts and relationship disputes, the quest for victory often translates to heightened tensions. Much like military actions provoking retaliation and exacerbating hostilities, relationship conflicts centred around ‘winning’ can quickly evolve into highly charged and full-blown confrontations.


  1. Neglecting compromise: The pursuit of victory in both international conflicts and personal relationships tends to overshadow the potential for compromise. Failure to find common ground perpetuates the cycle of conflict, hindering genuine resolution.


  1. Emotional toll: The relentless pursuit of victory in both contexts exacts a significant emotional toll. This toll, akin to the emotional cost in the international arena, can result in anxiety, resentment, and, ultimately, the deterioration of emotional well-being.


Drawing lessons from the Israel-Palestine conflict


Inspired by the Israel-Palestine conflict, it becomes glaringly evident that resolving disputes necessitates a different approach. The following lessons drawn to managing conflicts within personal relationships:


  1. Prioritize constructive dialogue: Just as dialogue and negotiation are pivotal in geopolitics, they serve as foundational elements in nurturing healthy relationships. Open, honest, and empathetic communication is indispensable for fostering understanding and resolution.


  1. Identify common ground: In both international diplomacy and personal relationships, it is vital to discern shared interests and values. Concentrating on these commonalities can serve as a bridge between opposing parties.


  1. Practice active listening: In the pursuit of victory, it’s easy to overlook the importance of active listening. Attentively hearing your partner’s viewpoint without judgment or defensiveness is pivotal in resolving conflicts.


  1. Embrace compromise: While compromise may seem like ‘losing’ during a disagreement, it is often the pathway to genuine resolution. A win-win solution is generally more sustainable and satisfying than an empty victory.


  1. Acknowledging emotions: Acknowledging and validating each other’s emotions are paramount, mirroring the significance of recognizing the suffering and grievances of parties involved in international conflicts. Emotional validation constructs bridges and creates a foundation for understanding.


  1. Consider the long-term perspective: Reflect on the long-term repercussions of ‘winning’ an argument. In both international and personal contexts, victory can come at the expense of lasting damage.


Understanding human nature and the desire to win:

In the context of relationship conflicts, it is essential to recognize the inherent human desire to win. As the renowned philosopher Socrates once remarked, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” In this spirit, we must examine the desire to ‘win’ and understand its roots in our human nature.

It’s fundamental to our survival instinct, harking back to the days when competition often meant life or death. However, acknowledging this intrinsic aspect of human nature doesn’t mean we should suppress it entirely. As Albert Einstein wisely noted, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Thus, we must channel this desire for victory into constructive and collaborative means. By doing so, we can engage in healthy and productive conflict resolution, rather than falling into the trap of damaging disputes that undermine the very relationships we hold dear.

Research in psychology and conflict resolution further supports this understanding. Studies, such as those conducted by Dr. John Gottman, a prominent researcher in relationship dynamics, have shown that the desire to ‘win’ during conflicts can be detrimental to relationships. It can lead to an escalation of negative emotions and hinder the development of effective resolution strategies. Dr. Gottman’s research emphasizes the importance of empathy, active listening, and compromise in maintaining healthy relationships.

A further study found that couples who prioritize understanding and compromise over ‘winning’ in conflicts report higher relationship satisfaction. This research demonstrates the lasting benefits of adopting a harmonious approach to disputes, mirroring the lessons from the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Tips for managing conflict in relationships:


Beyond the lessons from the Israel-Palestine conflict, insights into human nature, and strategies can assist couples in navigating their conflicts:

  1. Take a breather: When emotions are running high, taking a pause to cool off can prevent impulsive, hurtful words and actions.


  1. Use “I” statements: Express your feelings using “I” statements rather than resorting to blaming and accusations. For instance, say, “I feel hurt when…” instead of “You always…”


  1. Choose a neutral setting: Engage in discussions in a neutral, comfortable setting where both partners feel safe and heard.


  1. Exercise patience: Conflict resolution is a process that takes time. Being patient with the process and with your partner can lead to more effective outcomes.


  1. Seek therapeutic support: If conflicts persist, consider seeking assistance from a couples’ therapist who can provide valuable guidance and tools for healthier communication.

Final Words

In the tranquil embrace of olive groves, under the symbolic shelter of olive branches, within the complexities of Israel, Palestine, and the intricate dance of couples’ disputes, unity and understanding nurture the blossoms of enduring love and harmonious relationships.

On a personal level, we often find that our actions mirror the complexities of global politics. Rather than bemoaning the absence of international peace and our perceived inability to effect change, we have the power to cultivate harmony within our homes.

In the grand tapestry of life, where impulsive decisions may lead to regrets, remember that winning at the cost of connection and understanding is no victory. Instead, let us channel our efforts into building bridges, discovering common ground, and preserving the love and connection that first brought us together. By adopting these strategies, understanding human nature, and recognizing the futility of ‘winning’ at all costs, we can cultivate healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Such peace at home may, in turn, set in motion a ripple effect, fostering harmony and understanding in the world at large.

By Farah Naz
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Farah Naz is a UK trained Psychotherapist of more than 30 years, and is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, with a special interest in neuroscience. She has worked with thousands of people globally for a range of issues. Farah has trained national organisations, corporate companies, doctors, teachers and health workers on psychological-related issues. Currently, she has an online international practice and a private practice in the Algarve.
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