Conflict is a natural part of relationships. When you bring two different people with two different perspectives and communication styles, and everything in between, there is bound to be disagreements. Fighting with your partner doesn’t feel good, and it can definitely create stress and tension between you, which is why working on how you resolve the conflict is key. The alternative — not attempting to resolve it and sweeping it under the carpet — will only result in resentment and ongoing conflict, which will only impact the health of your relationship. Which is why working on your conflict resolution skills are integral for the strength and well-being of your relationship.
“Simply put, conflict resolution is the way we go about working through a disagreement/issue with the goal of coming to a solution where everyone involved feels satisfied,” Hannah Guy, LCSW. “Learning how to work through conflict with your partner is vital to keep your relationship healthy and thriving. We are all human and we bring our own baggage to each relationship. It’s really not about not having baggage as you enter a relationship, it’s more about how you manage said baggage.”
But resolving conflicts in relationships is difficult as well and requires practice. According to Guy, this is mainly because “when there is a disagreement, it’s very easy for our body’s trauma brain (your fight/flight/freeze center) to become activated. When it is activated, we aren’t able to actually hear what our partner is saying and work towards a resolution. We end up being guarded, shut down, or defensive with our partners or on the other side of the spectrum we become more aggressive, pushy, and demanding.”
When attempting to resolve a conflict together, Guy says the biggest thing to keep in mind is that you and your partner are a team. “It’s not a competition of who is right or wrong. Trying to look at things through the team lens, you are more able to look at the bigger picture and see what’s best for your relationship as a whole.”
Keeping that in mind, Guy shares some of the important conflict resolution skills every couple should work on.
Be very direct about what the problem is
This is a reminder that your partner isn’t a mind reader. “Your partner isn’t going to know how to work through the issue you’re having if you don’t explicitly tell them what the issue is,” Guy says. “Without doing this, you’re going to be expending so much energy, time, and emotion and I promise you, you won’t get anywhere. You’ll most likely leave the conversation more confused and upset.”
She recommends practicing this with even the smallest things so you can get used to and feel comfortable expressing your concerns.
“Remember, expressing your concerns doesn’t automatically mean there is going to be an argument,” she adds. “If your partner is coming home at midnight every night and this upsets you, articulate that to them.”
Don’t place blame
According to Guy, placing blame or pointing fingers gets you nowhere. Using the same example as before, she points out that nagging your partner about not coming home at a reasonable hour is putting all the blame on them for your discomfort.
“Let’s be honest, it’s very easy for us to point the finger at what our partner is doing wrong, however, it’s more about attuning to yourself and identifying how their behavior is impacting you,” she explains. “So instead of arguing with them about coming home late, it’s going to be more effective to tell them how when they don’t come home at a reasonable hour it makes you feel worried for their safety.”
Take accountability for your part
“Accountability is more than just apologizing, it’s following it through with action,” Guy says. “If your partner promises to be home at a more reasonable hour but continues to get home late, they are not taking accountability whatsoever.” But she says you also may need to take some accountability as well.
“Maybe your partner tells you they’re coming home later because all you do is nag them when they are home. So yes, your partner needs to come home earlier but you also need to make adjustments and take responsibility for the issue at hand.”
Plan for next time
The fact of the matter is, It’s not a matter of if, but when, another conflict will come between you and your partner. Which is why Guy says it’s important to pay attention to what patterns or triggers come up so you can be prepared next time there is conflict.
“Let’s just say your partner becomes irritable on Sunday evenings because of the work week coming ahead, that might not be the best time to bring up how you feel they could be cleaning up after themselves more,” she says.
So save that point for the next day when you are both in a better space to communicate so you ca find a solution together.
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