How To Resolve Conflict in a Healthy Way: 6 Experts Share Effective Tips To Overcome Conflict + Strengthen Your Relationship)
“A busy, vibrant, goal-oriented woman is so much more attractive than a woman who waits around for a man to validate her existence.”
~ Mandy Hale
This is one of the most difficult relationship lessons to put into loving action.
And it makes sense why. We all come into relationship with history, baggage and stories that influence our emotions now and those closest to us. Yet, is it fair?
One the best things we can do in the moments when our partner is perhaps uneloquently voicing his concerns about the relationship to us is to simply remain silent. Why is this?
When we take the time to stop and catch ourselves in the moment of upset, we get to ask ourselves, “Am I making this about me or listening for the grain of truth in what he is saying to me?” “Is he actually wanting reassurance that I am not going to hurt him like that?”
Often our partner is doing his best to relay a concern, fear or frustration.
And he may do it in a way that triggers you to want to defend yourself. But when we do that, we just start a vicious cycle of projection and defense and miss the opportunity to connect intimately with our partner.
When we choose to remain silent, we can take the time to listen fully to that is being said and seek out the grain of truth our partner is saying. Is he angry about something and what is his fear underlying that anger? Is there something I do unconsciously that triggers him where I can ask deeper questions to help soothe my partner’s fears? Am I committed to finding resolve instead of being right?
Here are a few ways to connect with your partner in these moments:
“You make sense to me because…”
“I can see how you…”
“What I hear you saying is…. Did I get that correct?”
When we step out of the active arguing, we can gain a larger perspective and approach the situation from a place of love.
We get the opportunity to validate our love’s feelings even if we don’t agree with them because ultimately, we all just want to feel heard. That alone can discharge the argument and shift the conversation to a place of love and understanding.
Relating intimately brings up intense feelings, that’s why even in the best of relationships, there are bound to be conflicts from time to time.
Intimate relating will often trigger us to remember childhood experiences that were painful, embarrassing, traumatic, etc. When we are sharing ourselves intimately through love, these wounds get triggered.
Conflict itself doesn’t have to be a big issue, what’s important is how we handle it.
Learning to handle conflict in a healthy way can actually strengthen your bond as a couple and not the opposite. It can be very reparative to have your deepest fears recognized and reassurance offered by your partner. To the opposite, if you are in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unhealthy their response can actually cause more damage, so, while I will offer tips today to healthy conflict resolution, the most important thing is to be with a partner who’s mature and loving enough to work through the resolution with you to begin with.
Here are a few tips for healthy conflict resolution:
1. Take a step back, establish healthy boundaries; I have a term I use in my first book “Art of Love” …I say; Let the soup cool down….. as in take a step back, take a breather…. We lose ourselves sometimes in the heat of a moment and the reality is if you’ve ever tried to eat hot soup you know, you just get burned.. the same is true with jumping in when you are fired up in a conflict, you are going to get burned/burn your partner, emotionally speaking anyway.
Take a second to step back and clear your head, go to an activity that you know brings you peace and clarity, maybe it’s a walk on the beach, or a cup of coffee at the café etc. I’m not suggesting you storm out and ignore your partner, I’m suggesting you say something like; hey, I’m super fired up, I don’t want to say something I’ll regret later, let’s table this for this evening? etc. Make sure you agree on a time to revisit the issue so that your partner doesn’t feel like you’re sweeping it under the rug, but the conversation will be much more productive when you have both cooled down.
2. Listen; When our wounds and fears are being triggered so often we actually totally stop relating- we stop listening or even trying to understand our partners perspective and we start projecting from our fears and old stories, that often time have nothing to do with present tense.
Instead of looking at your partner as the enemy or someone to be on the defense with, think of them as your teammate and seek to truly LISTEN actively to their perspective, their feelings, their wants, needs, desires. Don’t be so stubborn that you make it impossible for your partner to feel comfortable expressing themselves.
3. Seek compromise, common ground and clarity; love should not being about being “right” or “Wrong” or drawing hard lines in the sand, love should be about finding common ground and compromise, the healthiest couples don’t agree on everything (in those cases one person is almost always placating the other person out of fear of speaking their actual feelings etc etc. that is also not healthy) but they look for compromise and common ground a place to come together in balance taking both sides wants, needs, desires, and feelings into consideration.
Don’t stay trying to prove a point i.e. Further pushing your partner away, look for resolution, common ground and a deeper understanding of your love.
4. Remember love is patient, love is kind; it can take time to process through core issues in relationships so the important thing to remember is patience and kindness. Constantly seeking deeper bonds, deeper commitments, deeper resolution, deeper relating, deeper love.
The intensity of conflicts often lessen in time, especially when we are using steps such as those listed here to work through them in a healing and healthy way. In the end, having the experience can actually lead to deeper mutual understanding and overall feelings of satisfaction and depth.
Ashley Davene, Relationship Counselor - www.ashleydavene.com
Conflict happens in every relationship.
It is a natural and necessary part of intimate human interactions. As a therapist, I notice that there tends to be patterns in the ways that conflict becomes unhealthy. When issues between partners are unresolved or ignored, resentment builds and often comes to a head in the form of passive-aggression or a fight.
Conflict is unhealthy when partners behave in ways that are not respectful.
Name-calling, blaming, yelling, and not taking responsibility for one’s actions are just a few of the ways that unhealthy conflict can plague a relationship. Some unhealthy conflicts result in partners “keeping score” of their interactions which ultimately results in a loss of trust.
While conflict in relationships is inevitable, unhealthy conflict is not. Use the following ideas to resolve conflict in ways that strengthen your relationship.
Know your triggers
Triggers are typically benign things that remind people consciously or subconsciously of bad experiences that have happened to them in their life. When these triggers unknowingly come up in relationships, they can cause a fight without either partner knowing why. You may be having a fight about who does the dishes, but in reality you might be having a fight because you feel under appreciated. When you know your own triggers and can communicate them to your partner, you can spot when a trigger comes up in your relationship.
Know your blueprint
Think about how your parents or guardians handled conflict when you were growing up. This is possibly your first understanding of how intimate partners interact. Did your parents avoid fighting at all costs, but were very passive-aggressive? Did your parents get into screaming matches when upset? Whatever the answer, this is your original blueprint for how conflict is handled. You have the ultimate power to decide what you want to borrow from your blueprint and what you want to change.
Know your conflict style
Think about how you naturally handle conflict. Do you get angry very quick and then settle down right away? Do you hold a quiet resentment and try to ignore the situation? Do you like to talk about your feelings right away, or do you need time to gather your thoughts? Figure out how you tend to behave and have a conversation with your partner about it when you are not in a conflict. Learn about your partner’s conflict style and make an intention together about how you want to handle conflict when it arises.
When you get upset with your partner, take some time to regulate your own emotions before you address your feelings with your partner. If you do not calm down beforehand, you run the risk of saying something that you don’t mean, being hurtful, or escalating the situation. Take a few deep breathes, ask for a time-out, go for a walk, write in a journal, or do anything that calms you.
When you are ready, express your feelings to your partner speaking from your own point of view. Use “I” Statements such as, “I feel frustrated” or “I feel hurt”. Give your partner a chance to listen and also express their feelings about the situation.
Ask for what you need
After you have let your partner know how you feel, ask them for what you need. This may be something you need currently, or a way for your partner to handle a situation differently in the future. Work together to come up with a solution for the problem. Try to take responsibly for your own feelings and reactions.
When partners make the intention of using conflict to strengthen their relationships, problems that arise can become useful information instead of a reason to fight.
Jodi Rabinowitz,, LPC, MA, RDT - www.jodierin.com
So, conflict has often come to be a dirty word in the realm of relationships but why?
Conflict can be a very positive piece of relationships and actually help a couple move forward in their development of the relationship. Here are some ways you can turn conflict from a negative word to a positive growth experience.
First, identify specifically what the conflict is about.
Is it really about the small thing such as not doing the dishes that you are arguing about or is it really about the fact you feel used and that the relationship is unequal. By identifying the actual conflict, you can decide how to proceed. If it is truly about a little irritation then why is it bothering you, are you in an irritable mood, stressed out about other factors in your life or just not in a good place. If this is the case you need to stop and do something to put yourself in a better space so you cannot let these types of things get you upset.
If you know that you are doing okay and dealing with your own personal stress but this irritation or conflict is about a much bigger item in your relationship such as trust, inequality, non-commitment or any other, then communication is key.
Talk about it, use I feel statements, express how you feel and why. Then listen to your partner, are they feeling the same way, are they listening and how do they see the situation. Communicate calmly and with focus. Do not bring in old ills and do not go on the attack. Follow respect and loving principles so that each person can really share what they need to and be heard.
Lastly no one wins unless both are okay with the compromise reached.
We often feel that unless we win the conflict it is a failure. The only time a conflict is won is when both parties get a partial piece of what they wanted and a fair comfortable compromise is reached after an open discussion. Focus more on the communication process and reaching a middle ground then winning and you will find many more conflicts are resolved and even better less occur.
When you can use this process, you get a relationship that feels safe, calm and can weather storms because both people know conflict will not do them in. They can disagree, discuss and compromise. When they can do these three things they can handle any issue that arises.
Neesha Lenzini, MS - www.relationshipsinneed.com
Conflict Code of Conduct
In the process of writing my wedding vows this morning, I started reviewing the last five years of my relationship with my fiancé and how we’ve grown together. It occurs to me that one of the biggest catalysts for growth and positive relationship together has been the way we fight.
When we first got together, neither one of us had been in a relationship where our partners truly did conflict well. We had both been in unproductively explosive relationships, and in unproductively passive relationships. We had both been unconstructively explosive and unconstructively passive ourselves. We both had ideas about what a healthy conflict could look like, but we hadn’t had chances to truly test drive our convictions ...Until we moved in together!
We had some pretty dramatic fights in those first two years. We scared the dog and the kids, and probably drove our neighbors to drink. There were a lot of stresses in both of our lives separate from the relationship, and blending our dramatically different home habits and our children’s needs was brutal at times. And, we learned each other.
We developed what I like to call our Conflict Code of Conduct. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always pretty, but I am convinced that working within this framework has helped is grow to a level of intimacy that was well worth the struggle.
This is our aspiration:
1. Re-center and re-calm ourselves over and over and over again in the middle of a fight so that we can think clearly
2. Listen more than we speak
3. Frequently repeat back what we have heard, so that we know we have understood the other person
4. Don’t make decisions about the relationship in the middle of a fight
5. Stay on topic
6. Attack the problem, not the person
7. Avoid “but you….” (Don’t sidetrack. This isn’t about who the “better person” is.)
8. Pause if we must, but always return until we truly understand one another
In the heat of the moment, any or all of these aspirations can be challenging. There has to be grace to mess up, and then own up, when we diverge from the Code.
We get derailed when we feel that something important to us is threatened.
It could be our perception of the other person’s opinion of us. It could be that person’s perception of our respective children. It could be the other person’s political view, spiritual impression, life direction or any number of things that could potentially threaten the dreams we hold for our lives. If the conflict devolves into being about “winning” we have both lost. We need to keep it centered on understanding the other, being understood by the other, and moving forward in a more positive way.
Someone outside of yourselves with the skill to help you be faithful to your own Code of Conduct, can be of inestimable help. A trained therapist, a skilled clergy member or trusted friend who can stay neutral might be just what you need to use your conflicts to grow forward, together.
All relationships will experience conflict, but not all relationships survive the conflicts. As you know, relationships end because the arguments become so overwhelming, causing resentments, mistrust and complete unhappiness.
If your relationship is good you will experience the following:
1. You feel safe and comfortable expressing your feelings and needs, without fear of being reprimanded or belittled.
2. You support each other’s goals, encouraging in a non-competitive, accepting way.
3. Decisions are made together, with respect given to each other’s opinions. No one person is superior to the other and there is a balance between giving and receiving.
4. Conflicts are mutually resolved. There is willingness to compromise so that no one person is left feeling wrong or devalued.
5. You share common interests and ideals, but are able to pursue outside interests, including friends, hobbies, schooling, etc. There is a balance of closeness and separateness, yet when you are together, you are able to play and have fun.
6. You maintain your autonomy, so that if you are left alone, you are able to function, taking care of all your responsibilities and commitments easily.
If you are not experiencing some of the above, here are some strategies you can look at:
There are 5 steps to solving relationship conflict.
1. Know what you want by being very specific. Do not bring up the past, but stick to the present issue.
2. State what you want the other person to do. You could say things like, “I would like if you…..”
3. Listen to the other person with the same respect you would want them to listen to you. This allows you to gather information so that you can understand the other person’s position. “Are you saying that…”
4. Make a logical suggestion or alternative suggestion to what is presented.
5. Agree on a compromise. “I see where you are coming from. If you do “this” for me now, I’ll do “this” for you next time.”
Obviously, this takes some skill, some patience and a commitment from both sides to work at it.
Talking things out is very effective and it could save many conflicts from even getting started. Just know that the more you strain the situation by not “hearing” the other person, the more you diminish the peace and harmony you desperately desire. So, work on developing your listening skills and you will find the serenity in your life will increase dramatically and your fulfillment together will be preserved.
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