Tips For Managing Relationship Conflict

Let’s imagine that you and your partner just got into a heated discussion and you are all worked up and frustrated because you can’t see eye to eye and your partner seems so unreasonable. You are thinking, “They are just so wrong” and “Why can’t they see it my way?” So what do you do now? Here are a few suggestions. 

First take a time out. You are so worked up at this moment that you can’t think straight. Take a 15-20 minute timeout so you can calm yourself down. Maybe take a short walk around the block, take deep breaths and try to sooth yourself. Don’t just stomp out the door instead tell your partner, “I need a break, I know this is important but I need time to calm down. I will be back so we can finish”. This helps your partner know that they are not alone in the problem, you have not just abandoned them and you will come back to help them work this out. 

Then when you come back to try again, try to use a soft start. The first few minutes of the conversation sets the tone. Try to objectively describe what you see is the problem. Don’t evaluate, judge or blame. Be respectful, share how you are feeling and don’t point the finger at your partner and criticism them, making them the problem. Put the problem in front of the two of you. It is something that you are going to work on together. It is not you pointing fingers or blaming. 

You want to repair and de-escalate. It is important to minimize tension and express support. You can do this by letting your partner know that you are trying to understand them. For example, say “I hear you” or “I think I understand”.  Listen well and show that you are paying attention, make eye contact and nod your head. Take responsibility for your part. Say for example, “I was too harsh when I spoke to you” or “I was stressed all day and took it out on you.”

Most importantly, accept influence from them. Try to find common ground, show them that you understand their point of view and it makes sense. You have to yield a little bit, accept their influence, you want to find a solution that you can both feel good about.  By identifying and empathizing with your partners point of view, you are more likely to find a solution that honors both partners. That’s the secret.

In order to find that solution that honors both partners you cannot have a closed mind to your spouse’s opinions and desires. You do not have to agree with everything your partner says or believes, but you have to be open to his or her position. That is what accepting your partner’s influence is all about. If you find yourself sitting with your arms folded and shaking your head when your partner is trying to talk about a problem with you, your discussion will never get anywhere.

If one of you feels like they want to just give in to get the argument over with, this is not a good solution either. This is a win/loose solution and will result in resentment over time. Instead brainstorm with your partner possible solutions that you can both live with. Saying things like “How would that be for you?” and “What do you think of that idea?” Once a possible solution is chosen then test it out for a week and then revisit it and ask “How is this working for you?” and “Do we need to make any changes?” Continue the testing until you find a solution that works for both of you.

Give this a try the next time there is conflict.  Share with your partner and together work to solve your concern.

Written by Lisa Strong