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Conflict Resolution in Relationships

December 4th, 2018

“Conflicts are opportunities for you and your partner to align on values and outcomes. They are chances to understand, appreciate, and embrace differences.” - Tony Robbins

Conflict Defined

Conflict. It’s a term we are all familiar with but do we really understand the depths, the consequences, and even the benefits of dealing with a conflict? It seems obvious that when we define the word conflict, we assume it is the disagreement or differing opinions that can cause a rift between two parties. Oftentimes, the reasoning behind a conflict can be a build-up of issues and emotions, which can lead to passive-aggressiveness due to a lack of communication that is released at one time. Other times, a conflict may come up suddenly due to an acute scenario that can spark a dramatic reaction. Either way, conflict is universal and we all cross paths with it. Thus, it is important to find healthy ways of managing our emotions to promote a positive outcome.

Conflict in Intimate Relationships

It is one thing to have a conflict in the workplace, among friends, or with extended family, because at the end of the day you can disconnect and come home to a space that is your own, away from the drama and emotions. However, it is another thing to have a conflict in your relationship with your partner; especially if you live together. Much of this struggle has to do with the fact that at the end of the day, you must come home to the stress and anxiety of being in your home with someone you are not seeing eye to eye with. Although this is unfortunate and uncomfortable, it is quite common.

Common types of conflicts within a relationship:

    • Financial issues
    • Choices and decisions regarding raising your children
    • Work-life balance
    • Disapproval of friends and social life outside of the family
    • Disapproval of bad habits
    • Jealousy
    • Trust and/or dishonesty
    • Lifestyle choices
    • Where to live

The Negatives of Conflict

Arguments and long-standing conflicts tend to get a bad rap. Especially if a couple tends to argue frequently. Some of the reasons why conflicts can receive a negative reputation within relationships include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Anxiety about the future of the relationship
    • Saying or doing something you don’t mean due to a heightened emotional state
    • What this means about you as a person
    • What this means about your partner as a person
    • How relationship problems can affect other aspects of your life
      • Work
      • Social life
      • Mental health
      • Physical health
    • Development of unhealthy coping habits
      • Addiction
        • Alcohol
        • Drug use
        • Gambling
      • Eating disorders
      • Cheating
    • Depression
    • Can lead to domestic abuse
      • Physical
      • Verbal
      • Emotional
      • Mental
The Negatives of Conflict

The Positives of Conflict

On a brighter note, conflict can have a positive effect on relationships and even on personal growth. “In fact, an online study, ‘Able Arguers’, among 976 individuals in 2012 found that couples who engage in healthy conflict are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship versus those who ignore difficult conversations”, according to David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny who conducted the online study ( Some of the positives that may come from conflict resolution in a relationship include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Improved communication skills
    • Improved listening skills
    • Reciprocal appreciation for each other's opinions
    • Strengthens the relationship
    • Strength in knowing you can overcome adversity together
    • Allows you to voice your opinion and not feel like you are being silenced
    • Can help prevent a break-up or divorce
    • Signals a need for change within the relationship
    • Opens up your eyes to new perspectives and ideas
    • Promotes flexibility
    • Promotes compromise
    • Can lead to solutions, often creative ones that you can come up with together
    • Practice of emotional control
    • Allows each of you to be both independent and interdependent
    • Shared problem solving

The Dos:

Healthy Ways to Resolve a Conflict in a Relationship

  1. Be open to listening to your partner, just as you want to be listened to
  2. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes
  3. Seek professional help
  1. Accept that you can agree to disagree
    • You are both allowed to have your own opinions
  1. Manage issues as they come up
  2. Pick and choose your battles
  3. Turn your “I” perspective into a “We” perspective
  4. Take a break from the conversation if necessary to calm down your emotions

The Don’ts:

Healthy Ways to Resolve a Conflict in a Relationship

Unproductive Ways to Try Resolving a Conflict in a Relationship

  1. Don’t have the conversation when you are tired
  2. Don’t have the conversation when you are under the influence
  3. Don’t involve other people
  4. Don’t compare your relationship to other relationships
  5. Don’t compare your issues to other couple’s issues
  6. Don’t judge your partner’s perspective
  7. Don’t bring up the past or harp on previous issues or conversations
  8. Don’t give an ultimatum
  9. Don’t ignore meaningful issues which could lead to passive aggression

Why It’s Important to Resolve Conflicts

If conflicts are ignored, it can lead to long-lasting problems which can build up over time and may ultimately end in the termination of a relationship. If children are involved, this can be especially challenging for everyone involved. Hence, it is essential to be able to resolve conflicts in order to overcome the issues, strengthen the relationship, and grow both as a couple and an individual. Resources:

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