I have seen a lot of relationship conflict in my role as a therapist. And even those who seem like the most “perfect” couple experience conflict at some stage of their relationship.
Discord can cause a lot of pain, and it’s heartbreaking to see couples struggle.
But if you and your partner are stuck in some kind of conflict, there is hope. It’s possible to effectively handle disagreement in your relationship so that it doesn’t have to destroy your connection.
But what exactly can you do? Consider these five ways of handling conflict.
1. Slow Down and Take a Break
When you’re in a conflict with your partner, it’s easy for the situation to get heated and for you to become stuck on the argument. And that kind of inflexible situation presents a big problem. That’s because the more entrenched you get in the argument, the harder it is to pull yourself (and your partner) back out again.
Thus, the first thing to do is to slow down and take a break from the argument. Step away to do some mindful breathing or some light exercise. This helps to clear your head and get you back into a better frame of mind. However, don’t just walk away from your partner, make sure that you both agree it’s necessary to take a break and clear your mind. After a little break, you can continue a more reasonable discussion.
2. Question Why You Are in Conflict
Once you have calmed down ask yourself why you are in conflict with your partner. Did something hit a nerve during a conversation? Do you feel slighted for one reason or another? In my experience, we often get drawn into conflict in one of two ways.
- You and your partner have a fundamental difference in how you approach the world.Money issues are often a sticking point to these kinds of conflicts.
- The other problem is that one or both of you has a trust issue. When trust in a relationship is damaged that certainly is a breeding ground for conflict.
Remember to be honest with yourself and realistic about how this situation has developed. Avoid simply blaming everything on your partner. It takes two people, after all, to create a conflict.
3. Keep an Open Mind for Your Partner’s Perspective
When handling conflict it’s important to be open to your partner’s perspective. How are they approaching the situation? What is their reasoning? You know your partner best. Thus you are in a good position to switch your mindset and see things from their point of view.
It’s not necessary to agree with everything that they are thinking. However, opening yourself up to their perspective does help to build empathy and understanding between you. And understanding is critical for resolving a conflict.
4. Be Receptive to Attempts to Repair the Relationship
Dr. John Gottman, an expert in relationships, refers to repair attempts in his work. This is referring to efforts by your partner to reach out to resolve the situation. These attempts can be obvious, such as your partner asking, “Can we talk about this?” Or they could be less obvious. Perhaps your partner asks to have dinner together tonight, but without specifically mentioning the problem.
In either case, consider repair attempts as efforts to communicate with you. If you ignore these attempts, it will be that much harder to resolve the conflict.
5. Stay Aware of and Check Your Anger
It’s understandable that when you are stuck in conflict with your partner that anger will be present. Tensions will run high and it will likely get harder and harder to stay cool. However, even though it’s understandable for either or both you to be angry, it’s also important to be aware of and check that anger.
Know what the triggers are for your anger. When you know those trigger,s it can be easier to check your anger. Often anger arises because of insecure attachment. For instance, we believe things should be a certain way, from patterns we learned in the past. And when they are not, we become upset.
Of course, in the end, anger only creates more division and less connection and healing.
As I mentioned before, I have seen many couples who were stuck in conflict together. However, just because you have a conflict doesn’t mean that it has to continue. Nor does being in conflict imply that either of you doesn’t love the other.
If you are struggling to manage conflict, even after using these tips, consider getting help from a couples counselor. I would enjoy supporting you in your journey to put an end to your discord. Please, feel free to contact me.
To find out more about couples counseling click here.