Healthy Conflict for Couples

Conflict is an inevitable part of even the best relationships. Whether you call it fighting, disagreeing, or discussing, most relationships could benefit from less suppression of feelings and more honest effort to resolve conflicts. If you claim you have never had a conflict in your relationship, chances are one of you is not expressing their opinions or needs and this will most likely result in a build-up of resentment.

Hugging Healthy Conflict.jpg

Conflict is not the problem; but how you handle disagreements that can become the problem. When conflict escalates to a continued struggle or battle it becomes a problem. Disagreements are natural and healthy, and when handled well they can strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. Your challenge is to face up to and resolve conflicts, rather than stuffing feelings and building walls. We like to encourage clients to build bridges rather than walls.

The following are principles that will help you to resolve conflict in a fair and positive way:

Bite Your Tongue

Rather than allowing yourself to call your partner names, cut them with sarcasm, belittle them or in any way be disrespectful to them—bite your tongue. If harsh words pass your lips, apologize immediately. The words that you say in anger will be burned forever in your loved one’s mind; don’t say things that you will regret and can never erase.

Validate Your Partner’s Point of View

Validation does not mean agreement, but it is one of the fastest ways to take the heat out of a disagreement. When your partner feels heard and understood they don’t have to keep saying the same things over and over again. Say something like, “What I hear you saying is . . .. Have I understood you? Do your best to understand what they are saying and keep the sarcasm out of your voice.

Make the Problem the Problem

Work together to solve the problem, rather than attacking each other. Use "I" or "we" statements instead of "you" statements. Don’t take things too personally and stick to one problem at a time. Refuse to drag up the past and fling at your partner.

Don’t Compare

No one wants to hear how he/she should be more like their brother or sister. They also don’t want to be told how they are exactly like their mother or father. We don’t even want to be compared to our younger selves, such as you used to have hair or a great body.

Stick to the Topic

To resolve a conflict or issue it helps to deal with one issue at a time. Dumping all your unresolved conflicts on your partner at once is like adding gas to a fire--you are likely to create an explosion. If there are multiple issues, pick one and deal with it.

Stay Calm and Use Time Outs if needed

Nobody is deaf; when you start to yell you slam the door on any possibility of a compromise. If tempers are flaring and you find yourself losing control, put the argument on "hold" or call a "time-out." It is crucial when deciding to take a time out that you agree to meet back at a specific time when things have calmed down. During your time out try doing some activity like walking around the block or taking a shower to calm tempers.

Look for the Truth

Often in emotional fights, the truth takes a back seat. Try not to have a “don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude, where you maintain your position no matter what. Try communicating the facts. Don’t assume that you know what your partner is thinking or feeling. Always ask. Try to see things from their point of view, as if you were walking in their shoes and had their feelings and background. Taking your partner's perspective doesn’t mean you agree, just that you want to understand.

Be Solution Oriented

Work together to solve the “problem.” Don’t drag in family or friends to gang up on the other person. Try out this phrase, "What can we do together to solve this problem? I am willing to do the following…" Then state what you are willing to do and then do it.

Forgive and Accept Each Other

It is always a good idea to keep in mind that your partner is someone that you love. Your relationship is more important than your differences. Acceptance and forgiveness will strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. When you can accept and love each other despite your differences, your bond grows stronger. When the argument is over, do something healing, such as hug or say, “ I love you."