Tips for Handling Conflict in a Relationship

relationship conflictEvery romantic relationship will experience conflict, even the strongest couples will clash at times because they are different people with unique needs, ideas, and perspectives.

Conflicts in relationships can range from minor spats to blowout arguments. However, when we don’t address issues when they come up or when we don’t know how to deal with disagreements, they can become substantial and extremely hurtful.

The good news is that conflicts can be healthy. They can point out opportunities for growth in the relationship and affirm that both partners depend on each other. They can increase trust and help us better understand one another’s wants and needs.

The key is to learn better ways to deal with differences when they begin. Once when we know how to handle conflicts productively, we can have happier, stronger relationships.

Stay Calm

Remain composure and focus on the issue will help both partners feel less tense. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lash out sometimes. We may say hurtful things we don’t mean, but even after a sincere apology, the pain of an insensitive comment can linger and harm intimacy.

Listen Well

Using active listening skills will help us recognize what our mate is trying to express. Try maintaining eye contact and give nonverbal cues that show you’re listening, like smiles and nods. Ask questions to clarify and make sure you understand by repeating what they say in your own words.

Have Empathy

When you acknowledge your significant other’s feelings and try to see from their perspective, resolving conflicts becomes much more manageable. Even if we don’t view the issue the same way, we can be compassionate to our partner’s experience. It also helps to remember that, ultimately, you are both on the same team.

Use Humor

lightening the mood can help us turn a corner in a conflict. For example, laughing together can diffuse a heated conversation, remind us that we enjoy our partner and value the relationship. When you both try to keep a good sense of humor, you will become more resilient to the disputes and hardships that are bound to come up.

Avoid Blame

We are often quick to find and point out our significant other’s flaws. It can be a natural defense when we clash over something, but the “blame game” will only cause damage over time. Instead, use “I” statements (like, “I feel…” or “I need…”), then work together to find a solution.

Take Responsibility

While we don’t want to point fingers at our partners, it’s good to acknowledge our role in the conflict. Being honest with ourselves and our mates moves us closer to fixing the issue. It is essential to admit when we act irresponsible, dishonest, or combative. Once we are accountable for our negative actions, we can build trust and quickly overcome disagreements.

Find Common Ground

Again, it’s important to remember that you and your significant other are ultimately on the same side. Even when you don’t agree on an issue, you can agree that you both want what’s best for your relationship. Identify a common goal within the conflict. For instance, you might disagree on parenting approaches, but you would certainly agree that you both want what’s best for your child.

Choose Battles Wisely

Not every dispute is worth fighting over. Of course, we shouldn’t avoid every conflict. Otherwise, we’ll likely become resentful. But we can weigh the importance of an issue and think it over. Sometimes, we decide it won’t matter in a few months, days, or even minutes. In those cases, we can learn to let go. On the other hand, if it continues to bother us, we might want to review our motivation. Is the issue bothering us, or is something external -stress at work, for instance, or lack of sleep- making us irritable?

Take a Break

It takes our bodies at least 20 minutes to calm down from the fight for flight response. Stepping away for a half-hour or when we feel angry, upset, or anxious can be helpful. Agree to return to the conversation after relaxing for a while. Once both partners feel better, finding a resolution will be less stressful.

Forgive Readily

Every couple is unique. However, one sure thing is that neither you or your partner is perfect. Finding fault or feeling annoyed with trivial things daily can destroy a relationship. Giving our mate grace when little things come up can go a long way toward developing a deeper bond.

Ask for Help

If conflicts crop up frequently over minor issues or you can’t seem to fix an ongoing issue, therapy could help. A knowledgeable, licensed counselor can share tools that you can use to resolve problems together in a healthy and productive way. The skills you learn can benefit you well into your long, stable, happy future together.

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