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Managing Conflict

Don’t try to avoid conflict, it’s inevitable even in the healthiest relationships. Instead, be willing to create a safe environment where you can dialogue about anything. Conflict is inevitable. It actually helps us learn how to love our partners better. It also helps us grow. Lack of conflict does not create a healthy relationship, it is the approach to conflict that creates a happy and healthy relationship. Approaching conflict in a relationship should be gentle. It should not be one partner versus one partner. It should be both partners, working as a team, to address the problematic situation. Conflict avoiding couples do not strengthen their relationship by avoiding conflict. Instead, they become detached from each other and ignore their individual needs. For some people, especially those with childhood trauma, conflict may be scary to them so they avoid it at all costs. If one partner is conflict avoidant, they may never bring up any issues and try to be easy going. However, as a result, their individual needs go unnoticed, unknown and unmet. And the relationship becomes distant.

conflicts in relationshipThe best way to handle conflict in your relationship is directly, but with love and compassion. Here are 5 tips for addressing conflict in your relationship:

    1. Learn to identify your emotions. Each partner is responsible for recognizing their own emotions and being vocal about things that upset them. Identifying your emotions, instead of simply reacting, can help you bring up how you are feeling, and why you are feeling that way, in a calm and communicative manner. 
    2. Keep your level of physiological arousal low when bringing up conflict. If you bring up conflict in an aggressive, accusatory way, odds are your partner is going to get defensive. When you approach conflict in a calm manner, your partner can actually listen to your concerns instead of reacting to your emotions. Lay out the problem in simple terms, and ask how you can work together to address this issue. If one partner starts to get defensive or overwhelmed, it is okay to take a break from the conversation and come back to it when you are both more calm.
    3.  Admit when you make errors or say hurtful things. Sometimes when we are upset, we can say the wrong thing in an argument. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Taking accountability for your mistakes and admitting when you are wrong can go a long way when trying to get through a difficult conversation. 
    4. Accept influence from your partner. Have an open mind to your partner’s perspective in an argument rather than “battling it back” and escalating the conflict. Remember – this is you and your partner as a team battling the conflict together. Both of you can be right in your own ways, and it is important to really listen to your partner’s point of view.
    5. Accept one another. The concept of Acceptance does not mean agreeing with, approving, giving up, or liking the situation. It simply means seeing the reality as it is, believing that your partner’s beliefs, thoughts, as well as anything happening in the world can and has the right to exist. Acceptance creates connection with ourselves, the world and our partners.

For Information and Support

According to Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute, 69% of conflict in relationships is perpetual. It has no resolution because it is based on lasting differences in personalities and needs. Couples can either dialogue about these issues or feel stuck. Sometimes, both partners are conflict avoidant and speaking about problems in the relationship can be incredibly difficult. That is okay and there are still ways to maintain a happy, healthy relationship together. If you or your partner find it difficult to communicate about conflict in your relationship, reach out to us to get connected to one of our couples therapists.  Email us at