Relationship Conflicts suck! It is plain, simple and clear. They cause heartbreaks and eventual breakups. That’s why everyone in a relationship needs to learn how to navigate the treacherous road of conflict resolution. After all, conflicts are inevitable. You will disagree on trivial things such as the food to eat for dinner to major ones like suspicion of cheating. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you handle and resolve your conflicts.
This has been discussed in How to Resolve Conflict in Relationships by Chip Ingram. He says that having an occasional fight is in no way an indication of a broken relationship. What’s important is how the two of you handle the conflict. If done in the right way, conflict resolution can easily lead to the strengthening of the relationship. Constructive handling of conflicts presents an opportunity to arrive at a workable solution for both of you. From the discussions you will be having, it will be possible for you to understand your partner even better.
But just how do you manage and resolve relationship conflicts so as to have a stronger union in the end? Here are 17 proven ways to resolve relationship conflicts:
Face it Head on!
There are times when you will feel overly irked and irritated by the actions of your partner. You may not even be in a position to have any form of discussions. While that could be justifiable, it is hardly rational. What you should do is to create time to talk about the issues as soon as you possibly can.
Edward de Bono addresses this in the book Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve Them. He says it is wrong to push off the issues for days or weeks just so that it naturally goes away. To reach an understanding with each other, you need to talk to each other. Having pent-up resentment and keeping secrets is bound to cause underlying tensions that could blow up and break the relationship.
It is not that serious!
Most relationship conflicts involve individual actions or other aspects of the two of you. No matter how irked or irritated by your partner’s actions you are, avoid accusations, insults, and name-calling. That can only escalate the situation and make the conflict even worse. No matter how strongly you feel about them, some things are better left unsaid.
So how do you return to sobriety when your feelings seem to be getting out of hand? Robert Bolton provides answers in the book People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to others, and Resolve Conflicts. He suggests that you calm yourself down by taking a deep breath and keeping your voice at a reasonably low level. That way, you could change a screaming match into a reasonable discussion.
Keep it Private
Having arguments in front of the children is a no-no. You don’t want your personal conflicts to affect your children’s growth and development. So get into your bedroom, lock the door and talk about whatever issues you may have against each other.
It’s not just your children. Involving strangers in what’s purely between the two of you is also highly discouraged. No need to wash your dirty linen in public. If you are in a public place or in the company of other people, hold on until you are alone before talking about your issues.
Calm down First, Then Talk
It is understandable you are very annoyed with your partner. As much as you are on the very edge of your emotions, you shouldn’t confront your partner in that state. It is always better to cool down first before talking about the issue at hand. W. Robert Nay says as much in Taking Charge of Anger. He says engaging in a shouting match replete with fits of anger won’t get you anywhere. The only way to have constructive talks is to have a discussion like two mature individuals after giving it some serious rational thought.
Learn To Accept Criticism
It takes two to tango. In a relationship, both of you contribute to the good times as well as the bad ones almost in equal measure. So don’t say you have no role in your relationship conflicts. As it were, your partner may criticize you for causing the conflict at hand.
They cannot be far-fetched. Even if he or she is the immediate cause of the misunderstanding, you could have played a role somewhere along the way. Make sure you own up and accept responsibility. So you are advised in the book Instant Conflict Resolution to apologize and say you are sorry. It doesn’t make you any weaker but will strengthen your relationship.
Team Work! It is not about Who Is Right and Who Is Wrong
The biggest mistake that couples make when trying to resolve conflicts is to go into the blame game. At its very best, fault finding will only make your argument worse. What if you were right and your partner was wrong? Does it make the conflict resolution process any better? As Claire Robin says in How to Build Trust in a Relationship, it doesn’t.
The focus of the discussion should not be on establishing who between the two of you is right. Your priority should be to find a mutually agreeable solution. To succeed in that, both of you should be willing to take responsibility and play your part.
Hit the Nail on the Head
What’s the point of beating about the bush when you know exactly what’s bothering you? Relationship conflicts are better solved when both partners are willing to say it as it is. Avoid speaking to your partner condescendingly and in a way that only shows hostility. As Amber Rain says in How to Stop Fighting, going round and round without addressing the issues is also a no-no.
If you are prone to avoiding the issues at hand by quickly veering off-topic, stop. Instead of looking genuine in your quest to find a lasting solution, you end up appearing unnecessarily evasive. That is not the way to handle conflicts. It only sweeps the issues under the carpet.
Avoid Unnecessary Generalities
Every conflict is unique in its own right. After all, circumstances leading to relationship conflicts change all the time. You will end up making your partner defensive by saying things such as ‘You are always late for bed.’ While that might be true, it may not be related to the current conflict.
In Forgiveness Made Easy, Barbara J. Hunt says that you can only solve conflicts if you hold meaningful discussions. Driving your partner into a situation where he or she has to make counteraccusations won’t work. If anything, you will only make the relationship worse.
Avoid Handling Multiple Issues at a Go
You can only have constructive discussions if you handle only one issue at a time. This is what Miles Sherts, suggests in Conscious Communication. He says that dragging multiple topics into the discussion is a no-no. Apart from confusing the issues, you won’t be able to find a solution to any one of them.
But dealing with one issue at a time isn’t that easy. When angry with your partner, you are likely to go digging for other mistakes from the past. What you want is to show yourself as being better than your partner. Relationship conflicts can never be resolved by digging past issues, which have already been resolved. As the complaints increase, the discussions get tougher and the conflicts harder to resolve.
Pay Attention to What Your Partner Is Saying
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. How do you think he or she feels when it is clear you aren’t listening to him or her? So stop interrupting your partner and stop assuming you know what’s going through their mind. It is possible that you have an idea where your partner is coming from. But telling them what you think they were about to say will only make you appear like you aren’t paying attention.
Employ active listening methods to show your partner that you are actually paying attention. That’s the advice you get from Mark Robert Waldman in the book Words Can Change Your Brain. He says you should paraphrase what your partner is saying to show you actually heard it. Also, check if you understood what your partner said. This is one way to prevent the conflict from worsening.
Avoid Making Automatic Objections
It is easy for you to get defensive in response to criticism from your partner. But objecting to almost everything he or she says doesn’t help to resolve a conflict. It only goes to show your partner that their views are not valued.
Also, avoid responding to your partner’s complaints with your own set of grievances. According to Deepal Malhotra in Negotiating the Impossible, doing so will only drive you into a never-ending vicious cycle of blame. That won’t take you anywhere in the resolution of relationship conflicts. The better policy is to listen to what your partner is saying before you respond.
View It from Your Partner’s Lenses
Although you are in the relationship as one, there is no way you will always have the same perspective on issues. Before you try justifying your views, pause and look at the conflict from your partner’s perspective. Once you understand how he or she feels, you won’t stick to your position during the discussions. That’s exactly what Robert Bolton says in People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to others, and Resolve Conflicts.
To resolve relationship conflicts, a lot of objectivity is required from both parties. If you can’t place yourself in your partner’s shoes, try to look at the whole situation like a disengaged third party. You will have the opportunity to see the issues for what they are and come up with ways to resolve them.
Avoid Being Obviously Contemptuous
It takes a lot of self-control to avoid saying contemptuous things about your partner. When you belittle your partner, you could end up with name-calling and sarcastic remarks from both of you. Some people even end up with non-verbal signs of contempt such as smirking and rolling of eyes.
Apart from being disrespectful, such behavior shows how disgusted you are with your partner. These are the views of Mira Kirshenbaum in the book I Love You but I Don’t Trust You. She says it won’t take you far when it comes to resolving relationship conflicts.
Avoid Negative Vibes
It doesn’t matter how bad you feel about your partner. You can express how you feel but avoid being negative. Going that route can only breed unnecessary hostility between you and your partner. There is no way you will be able to bring an end to the contemptuous remarks and heated insults.
As Robert Delamontagne says in Honey, I’m Home, the alternative is to try collaboration, warmth, and humor to defuse the situation.
Allow Each Other Time to Talk
You need to give your partner the time to express himself or herself before responding. It is important to acknowledge your partner’s point of view before you express your own. By being accommodative, you will have very high chances of reconciling.
As L. Ron Hubbard says in How to Resolve Conflicts, The biggest mistake is to view the situation as a win-or-lose affair. After all, resolving relationship conflicts has nothing to do with who wins and who loses. By rebuilding the relationship, both of you are winners in the end.
Know That Solutions Are Hard To Find
To resolve relationship conflicts, you have to undergo drawn-out, rigorous discussions. So don’t expect to find a solution soon after the first meeting. You have to stay focused and keep going until you sort out your issues. But both of you have to be prepared to make a lot of compromises. While at it, stay rational and calm, expecting to reach a compromise. That way, you will be able to quickly resolve the conflict and build a stronger relationship.
Know When It Is Time to Pause
When engaged in finding a solution to relationship conflicts, you could end up going into a vicious cycle of blame and counter blame. You could also be finding it hard to stick to the recommendations in this write-up. Daniel Shapiro advises you in the book Negotiating the Nonnegotiable, to pause and take time apart from your partner.
It doesn’t have to be prolonged and could range from a few minutes to days. The purpose is to enable you to take a breather, reflect on the situation, and come back ready to find a solution. It doesn’t mean you are giving up. Rather, you are only allowing yourself to have a more objective look at your relationship.
As you can see, resolving relationship conflicts takes a lot of time and effort. Both of you have to approach the situation with clear intentions to make the relationship better. If you go into it blaming each other, then there is no hope to have the relationship back where it used to be. Therefore, you should avoid the blame game.
Realize the roles that both of you played in causing the conflict and work towards changing the situation. Negativity won’t get you anywhere. In the end, each one of you has to make compromises no matter who is wrong or right.