Conflict in relationships can be unsettling because of the strong negative connotations and the unpleasant feelings it brings up, but it is also inevitable. Conflict arises from a difference of opinion, and when two people come together to form a romantic partnership, these differences are bound to arise. The best way to navigate these differences and disagreements is to equip yourself with the right skills and techniques for conflict resolution in relationships.
So, are you wondering how to resolve conflict in healthy relationships? Or how to address the most common conflicts in a marriage? It’s all about handling disagreements and rifts in a maturely and saving the relationship from falling apart. Counseling psychologist Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling, help us understand just how to do that by shedding light on conflict patterns and relationship conflict management.
What Does Healthy Conflict Resolution In Relationships Look Like?
Conflicts are bound to exist in romantic relationships. No two people can agree on all the things. And when you put two people in a relationship and ask them to share their lives, those disagreements will create issues at some point. In fact, every minor disagreement in marriage can snowball into a major conflict. In this context, celebrated author and psychologist Dr. Harriet B. Braiker said, “Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit.”
Speaking about the importance of conflict resolution in relationships or marriages, Shazia explains, “Conflict can be termed as a disagreement or an argument between two people who have different backgrounds, values, perspectives, and belief systems. Most often, conflicts can in fact be healthy for a relationship. But once they turn ugly, resolving them becomes foremost, and that’s where these strategies for addressing conflict in relationships come in. So, remember, it’s all about removing unhealthy conflict in relationships.”
But is healthy conflict resolution possible in a relationship? Well, of course, it is. Here’s what it looks like:
- Just because you two can fight all night, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t deeply in love with each other. You need to implement conflict resolution strategies keeping in mind that you wish to continue the relationship
- Positive resolution tips for conflicts are just techniques to navigate around their differences and not let them get the better of their love
- They don’t guarantee that issues won’t exist in your relationship anymore
- What it really means is that you need to learn how to set your differences aside, be more accepting of the other person, and find a middle ground to be able to work on the same
- Healthy conflict resolution in marriage or long-term relationships also entails setting clear and healthy boundaries. Appropriate boundaries also save you from emotional draining
Related Reading: 7 Strategies To Stop Fighting In A Relationship
How To Resolve Conflicts In A Relationship – 9 Tips
While every relationship is unique, it is always good to have a repository of perspectives to refer to and apply in case our wisdom and sensibilities don’t sync up. Conflict styles in relationships vary. So, for conflict resolution, it is important to understand a partner’s perspective as well. That being said, you’re probably here because you keep asking yourself, “How to resolve conflict in a marriage or in a relationship?” Well, read on to find all the answers that you need.
1. Remember, it’s you two against the problem
Most conflicts between partners have one underlying outcome – to win at any cost. Think of what is known as the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’. In this concept, two prisoners can either collaborate to improve their chances of escaping or betray each other for individual rewards.
If both ‘prisoners’ choose to not trust the other’s intention, they ruin the chances of escaping for both of them. This is equivalent to two people arguing and sabotaging the relationship completely. Remember it’s not you against the other, it is you two against the problem at hand. Both parties involved should reach a mutual agreement.
Shazia explains, “Cooperation is one of the most important conflict resolution steps. It’s like agreeing to disagree. Two people arriving at a mutual ground, understanding each other better, and respecting each other’s perspectives and conflict resolution styles are all crucial to resolving conflict in romantic relationships.”
You can enhance cooperation and take a step toward conflict resolution in relationships by:
- Being accommodating
- Giving each other space
- Understanding your partner’s needs
- Creating healthy boundaries
- Making a collaborative effort to solve the problem
- Keeping a tab on your partner’s emotional well-being
2. Avoid misunderstandings
Every time I come across any examples of conflict in relationships, my first reaction is to tell myself, “Hold on, we’re probably not speaking the same language.” It almost always works and you will notice this too. In fact, most often, what causes conflict in a marriage is a misunderstanding about what was said by a partner. Well, the words you choose could make or break your relationship. If misunderstood by your partner, such words may hurt their feelings beyond repair.
Related Reading: 8 Fights Every Couple Will Have At Some Point In Their Relationship
In such cases, you need to:
- Understand that no two people speak the same language or even use the same words in the same context
- Give the other person the benefit of doubt if they start using slangs or offensive words
- Be open-minded and consider that they may have a different point of view
- Be aware of the role of body language too, as some of your gestures may offend your partner
Shazia adds, “Conflict resolution in marriage is possible when a couple tries their best to reach an understanding. It is possible that two people speak two different languages and it generally happens when we get emotionally charged and we tend to talk in the language that comes most naturally to us without thinking. Additionally, one should also take care of non- verbal cues to argue in a healthy way. Be mindful of facial expressions and your body language as these can have a great impact too.”
3. Look at the bigger picture
So, you’re upset that your husband forgot to do the dishes again or you are annoyed that your wife has been very cold and distant toward you lately. This is enough for you to turn into a ball of fire, storm into the living room, and start the fight of the decade. But the moment you take a step back and try to analyze what’s happening, you may see a little merit in their argument too.
This doesn’t mean that your spouse was never wrong or that you have been mindlessly yelling at them. It’s just possible that there is a wider range of things that you must understand to perceive the situation better. Perhaps he forgot to do the dishes because he had a long evening of grocery runs. Maybe your wife is acting distant because she’s got a crazy new boss at work. Assess the situation from all sides and you’ll be a much better lover to your partner.
Here are some simple ways to resolve conflicts between husband and wife or in long-term
relationships, in such cases:
- Distance yourself from the issue and look at the entire picture without a preconceived notion
- Try and give up your sense of hurt for a while and be objective
- Accept each other’s flaws
- Forget your ego
Shazia agrees, “To see the bigger picture one just has to ‘agree to disagree’. Acceptance is the key if you are serious about recovering from conflict in romantic relationships. Make a genuine effort in the relationship to respect each other’s perspective.”
4. Be kind
One of the most common conflicts in a marriage is rudeness. In fact, it’s often deemed okay to be upfront to the point of being rude, even if it means saying hurtful things in a conflict. If a relationship can’t take hurt well, it cannot survive. But this can be one of the biggest problems and examples of conflict in relationships.
When the bond between partners is affected by incivility or lack of kindness, one needs to realize that just because one is close to their partner, there’s no room for causing hurt deliberately. Here’s what partners can do to avoid unnecessary conflict in such cases:
- During arguments, be civil while keeping a comfortable distance
- Don’t lose control of your words, body language, or actions in a fit of rage
- Try to understand things from their perspective
- Keep track of your partner’s emotional well-being
Shazia advises, “Hurtful words can cause scars so deep that they could affect your partner badly. It may take them a long time to heal from those scars. One has to be in a better emotional state to understand the context of the problem.”
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Reconnect After A Big Fight
5. Unplug in the middle of an argument
How to resolve conflict in a relationship when both feel strongly? Well, it’s advisable to take a break or a circuit breaker when you’re in the middle of an argument with your partner regarding common marriage and relationship problems.
So, here’s how you can do it:
- Don’t react immediately
- Take time off and create a healthy distance
- Think about the issue at hand in a calm manner
- Sleep over the issue, if possible, and focus on it the next morning
Shazia says, “Taking time off can actually work wonders in resolving a relationship conflict. This way, the person gets some time to think about the issue in a relaxed manner, without any stressors. It is always better to take some space so you can respond better later on. Emotions are never the same and change much more than you think. Both conflicts and emotions are situational and need some space and time.”
6. Don’t generalize
When you’re in the middle of an argument with your partner, avoid saying words such as ‘never’ and ‘always’. Conflicts only escalate when you put the blame on your partner, saying things such as:
- You never do the chores
- You’re always concerned about your family and your friends and never about us In such cases, conflicts between husband and wife or any romantic partners are aggravated and your partner may come up with counter-arguments that:
- Dismiss your allegations
- Bring in a few of your flaws
7. Choose your battles
Most couples make the mistake of discussing all the topics that bother them when they’re arguing. So, for instance, you start arguing about your partner’s spending habits and then, when the conflict escalates, you move on to the time when he was flirting with your best friend or when he made fun of you in front of his parents. The conflict continues to get bigger, and there’s no sign of an end to your arguments. So, in such cases, you should:
- In the first place, choose an issue and stick to it when you’re arguing
- Focus on resolution rather than bringing in more issues to discuss
- Take up other issues one at a time
- Forgive and forget certain things in your relationship
8. Don’t blame, shame, or judge
How to resolve conflict in a relationship when both feel strongly? Well, it’s common for couples to indulge in the blame game or make caustic and judgmental remarks when arguing or discussing to resolve conflicts, especially when they’re both driven by emotions. But that
only ends up widening the gap between you and your partner. You should instead:
- Avoid sarcasm or name-calling
- Avoid disrespectful behavior, such as eye rolling or putting the middle finger up
- Avoid leaving the room to make your partner feel insignificant
Related Reading: 9 Things To Do When Every Conversation Turns Into An Argument
One of the major conflict resolution strategies is listening to your partner. In fact, active listening is a major component of any form of effective communication. Likewise, when you communicate effectively, it is not just about putting forth your own points but also about listening to the other person and comprehending what they have to say. So, be a good listener.
During arguments, it’s important to:
- Listen to your partner’s concerns
- Not cut them off in between
- Find out the root cause of the disagreement
- Reach a mutual solution in a respectful manner
- Relationship conflict isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs to be handled in a mature
manner to prevent relationships from falling apart
- Couples in conflict should focus on removing unhealthy conflict in relationships
- Some conflict resolution strategies in relationships are listening to your partner, being kind, looking at the bigger picture, not resorting to a blame game, and choosing your battles
- Since each relationship is unique, there can’t be an exhaustive list of resolution tips.
Conflict resolution styles can differ, but the general focus should be on understanding
your partner’s perspective
Are you still wondering how to resolve conflict in a marriage? We hope not. Even a successful relationship has its fair share of conflicts. We also hope this article gave you a better understanding of what causes conflict in a marriage or a relationship and how one should go about conflict resolution in relationships. These pro tips are time-tested. So, rest assured that you’re on the right path once you start applying these in your marriage. If things still don’t work out for you, in spite of incorporating the conflict resolution techniques suggested here, you can opt for couples therapy or counseling. If you are looking for a counselor to help you resolve conflicts between husband and wife, know that Bonobology’s skilled panel of counselors is only a click away.