Conflict happens. It’s a natural part of being in a relationship, and it can be hard to have difficult conversations with your partner. However, there are ways you can learn how to handle conflict more effectively so that it doesn’t negatively impact your relationship over time. Here are some strategies for resolving conflicts with your partner:
Couple conflict is a normal part of relationship. Couple conflict is not a sign of a bad relationship; it is actually one of the most important signs that your bond is strong and healthy. Couple conflict means you care about your partner, and it also means that you are invested in each other’s happiness, which makes sense because if you don’t have that, why would you be in a relationship?
Take a break.
- Take a break. When the discussion gets heated, it’s important to take a break. This can be as simple as going for a walk or taking some time apart before coming back together to talk. Sometimes couples need to calm down before they can resolve conflict in the way that works for them. Do not communicate from a place of anger! That is a recipe for disaster.
- Take breaks when you need time alone, too. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your partner’s behavior during an argument or heated discussion, take some time out so that you can collect yourself and think better about how best to approach him or her next time around.
Focus on understanding.
Here are a few ways you can improve your understanding of the other person and what they need:
- Get curious. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. This can be done in a nonjudgmental way by asking questions like, “How do you feel about what happened?” or “What would make this situation better for you?” Be aware of not going too far into their headspace; don’t ask questions that will make them feel uncomfortable or threatened—like asking them why they feel the way they do, or if they’re upset with something else besides what happened. You want them to be able to talk openly and honestly with no pressure from you!
- Be open-minded about their perspective. Don’t argue just because it feels like a fight is inevitable—if possible try saying things like “I see where [insert name] is coming from” or “I understand why [insert name] reacted that way.” The more understanding we have for one another, the less likely it will be for disagreements becoming big fights later on down the road.
Pick your battles.
While you should never let the little things slide, it’s also important to not let them become big than they are. A partner who doesn’t put the lids back on things can be annoying and slightly irritating but hardly a deal-breaker—especially if they do great work at their job or are otherwise a good partner. Likewise, if you’re always eating junk food, your other half may feel like they’re being taken care of less than they’d like (and they may have a point). If this is something that both of you agree is an issue, then by all means talk about it and try to change, but don’t waste time arguing over frivolous things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Get some support.
- Talk to a friend or family member.
- Seek professional help.
- Hire a coach who specializes in helping couples resolve conflict effectively.
Create safety and stay connected.
When our brains are in fight-or-flight mode, it can be difficult to think clearly and resolve conflict. Therefore it’s important to create safety and stay connected during a conflict. You can do this by:
- Turning off your phone, email and other distractions so you don’t feel distracted or interrupted.
- Making sure you have enough time for conversation without having to rush (a 15 minute argument can turn into an hour long one if the person has a lot of things going on).
To be successful in couple conflict, you must remain focused on what matters most, doing what’s best for the relationship, even if it’s not best for you in the moment.
Remember: You are both fighting for the same thing—a happy and fulfilling relationship.
As your partner talks about their feelings and perspective on the situation or conflict, listen carefully without interrupting or judging. Then let them know you heard what they said by paraphrasing it back to them using “I statements” (e.g., “I hear that you want me to come home earlier because when I am late it makes you feel abandoned and angry”).
As with all things, successful conflict resolution requires you to focus on what matters most. In this case, that means staying focused on your relationship and doing what’s best at that given time—even when you may not always feel like it .