Conflict is a natural part of life. While it is not always damaging, it plays an inevitable role in every relationship. How you handle those conflicts can have a lasting impact on your long-term relationship.
According to clinical psychologist Russell Grieger (2015), disagreements have four possible outcomes:
- The outcome is good for the first person, but not the second.
- The outcome benefits the second person, but not the first.
- The outcome is bad for both people.
- A resolution is found that is appropriate for both people.
Obviously, we all hope for the fourth possible outcome—the win-win. But getting there is not always that easy. When couples decide to put “we” ahead of “me” they tend to resolve conflicts in a smarter way.
Here are some tips to go about being smart and meaningful in disagreements:
- Resist the urge to be right.
Being right is not always the way to resolve conflict. While you might win in the short term it may not end up being a long-term win or resolution. If the resolution leaves one person feeling slighted or resentful, it can creep into the areas of the relationship.
- Acknowledge that sometimes you see things differently.
Try to remain open-minded and objective. Getting caught up on one side of the argument doesn’t allow flexibility in understanding your partner’s concerns. When you feel yourself getting pulled into needing to be right, take a step back and instead focus on how to move forward.
(We see this situation differently, and that is okay. How can we move forward?”)
- Consider your partner’s feelings
If your partner feels hurt or upset by something you have said or done—offer compassion, care, and/or an apology. Blaming your partner for how they feel often ends up creating more issues immediately or down the road. Simply acknowledging their feelings can open the door to more constructive dialogue. (You’re frustrated and unhappy that I showed up late. I can understand why you would feel that way.”)
- Directly express your problems.
Instead of brushing the issue off or avoiding it all together, directly express what is bothering you. Acknowledge your partner’s emotions and respond with empathy instead of blame or anger. Once the issue is out in the open, a real plan of action can be put into place.
- Focus on how to move forward.
Open communication is key. This might include asking what is needed to move forward regardless of who is at fault. Pay attention to the issues and feelings of your partner and, if needed, follow up with questions to make sure you understand what is being said.
At Grand Oaks Behavioral Health, we welcome couples of all kinds. Whether you’re dating, committed for life, or considering leaving the relationship, we can help you recognize your relationship needs, reconnect with your partner and foster a healthy, long-lasting bond.
You can learn how to communicate effectively and honestly with your partner, moving from blame and anger to empathy and understanding. Rather than feeling distant or lonely in your relationship, you can once again feel emotionally connected and cared for. And where you may have once felt helpless to resolve conflict, you can develop skills to confidently and actively create the relationship you want.