Conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship. It arises when one person disagrees over the ideals, opinions, or needs of another – triggering strong emotions that can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort.
When conflict is mismanaged, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and breakups. It becomes destructive rather than constructive. However, when handled in a respectful, positive and healthy way, it provides the opportunity to enrich you and your partner’s understanding of one another, deepen the relationship and strengthen the bond between the two of you.
No matter how much you and your partner have in common, you cannot expect the two of you to be on the same page and agree on everything all the time. While it may seem impossible at first thought to resolve relationship conflicts every time they occur, you should not see conflict as a threat to your relationship, but as an opportunity and a sign of growth in a relationship.
Rather than fleeing and avoiding differences as they arise, learn how to resolve them without causing any emotional injury.
Pick Your Battles
Instead of making a mountain out of every little molehill in your relationship, weigh up whether the problem is really worthy of your time and energy. Conflicts can be utterly exhausting so agree to not to make something a battle unless it is seriously important. This doesn’t mean giving in to your partner’s decisions when it is something you feel strongly about. Choosing your battles all boils down to letting the unnecessary stuff go and coming to grips with the matter at hand.
Take a Break
Give yourself a time-out if you feel that you or your partner is too angry to deal with the problem at the time. Arguments can cause heightened emotions, making it difficult for both of you to come up with a wise decision. This is why physically giving yourself distance until you are calm and more self-controlled might sometimes be the best way to deal with the immediate situation. Stop and take a few breaths, but remember to come back to the discussion and sort things out at some later time.
Use Assertive Communication
State how you feel by using “I” messages to assume responsibility for how you feel, rather than “you” statements and blaming your partner’s faults. You might say, for example, “I feel alone whenever you come home late” rather than “You are so insensitive.” Make the distinction that you are upset with their actions and specific behaviour and not who they are as a person. Express what you want and need in a clear, direct, and respectful manner as though encouraging your partner to understand your feelings instead of him or her feeling as though they are being criticised or attacked and therefore needing to defend him or herself.
Stay in the Present
It is never a good idea to dredge up old issues from the past. If you do find yourself tackling issues from the past it is likely because those issues were never resolved in the first place. Try to keep your focus on what you can change today. Bring the problem out into the open by asking for what you need or refusing to do what you don’t want to or cannot do. Clarify to each other exactly what the conflict involves and clearly express what you each want. There are always two sides to the story so listen before you speak and understand before you decide to respond. Sometimes we need help in learning how to do this: that listening to someone else’s viewpoint doesn’t mean you have to give up your own world view. It just means you listen with curiosity to how the other person sees the world, and you do not have to agree with them. That way you can see them as separate; see them as an ‘other’ person – not as an extension of yourself. That may even allow for you to have some empathy for their way of seeing things. This in turn allows each one of you to feel heard and understood as well as ensures that you are both clear about the issues.
Do not Make Winning a Priority
Instead of always trying to win the argument, maintaining and strengthening your bond should always be your top priority. Do not try to be the person who is right in every conflict as this often ends up destroying the relationship. To effectively resolve relationship problems, make it a habit to come to an agreement that respect each other’s needs. Research shows that good relationships survive the same arguments over many decades. Two people who have a strong relationship can afford to disagree with each other as long as it is not accompanied by contempt. Contempt is one of the most destructive aspects of conflict.
Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship and there are a lot of healthy ways to solve it besides the aforementioned tips. If after all attempts have been made to solve a conflict, and the relationship continues to fall apart, it might be time to undergo relationship counselling to learn how to listen, acknowledge the other’s point of view, and decide how to accommodate that alternative point of view. Sometimes counselling can allow a third person’s mind to think about what is going on between two people and help bring about reconciliation.