7 Ways to Help Address Relationship Conflict

Conflict can be seen as an unwelcome part of any relationship and to be avoided at all costs. The idea of talking about conflicting issues with your partner may make you feel very uneasy. Yet the reality is that conflict is an important part of a healthy relationship. It allows you to better understand and respect the different values, beliefs, ideas and opinions about life that exist between yourself and your partner. It also enables you to figure out ways in which you can work together making you feel closer and stronger as a couple.

There are four main ways that people avoid conflict.

Is this you?

You avoid conflict at all costs this involves denying any conflicting issues exist between yourself and your partner. You turn a blind eye to things that you disagree with or that may upset you. You may believe that any kind of disagreement would be too damaging for the relationship to bear. This leads you to inhibit or downplay your own ideas or thoughts over those of your partner. This can cause you to feel great levels of stress and may lead you to withdraw in order to cope with your thoughts and feelings.

You ignore the big issues and this can place a heavy toll on you. Your simmering emotions, anger and stress can overload you. You can find yourself making negative comments on little things to get some relief. This can lead to a pattern of baiting and biting back with your partner over the small stuff. Due to all of the emotions you have been trying to hold down and repress – these small things – seem big and all consuming. This can lead to simmering tension, arguments or withdrawal increasing your feeling of isolation and separation within your relationship.

Walking on eggshells
There is so much tension and disagreement between the both of you that you can feel it in the air. It doesn’t feel safe to bring anything up in this environment and you only talk about the practical, or everyday stuff. Even this can feel loaded with meaning though. You feel unable to be open or disclose any thoughts or feelings of your own for fear it will make the situation worse. At times it may feel like things could explode between you and your partner. This causes you both to close down emotionally and distance yourself from each other. This can increase your anxiety and sense of loneliness.

Crash and bang
You experience any kind of disagreement or conflict as a personal attack on yourself. This leaves you annoyed with yourself for putting yourself in this situation. Or unable to understand why the other person may have an issue with you. You feel your only option is to react rather than to discuss things. You often react aggressively and conflict quickly escalates into a heated and at times violent row. When you can’t face the argument anymore you ‘walk out’ physically or emotionally. This can leave you feeling guilty about your actions and comments afterwards.

Why does this happen?
Conflict affects you deeply whether you acknowledge this or deny it. It can raise a sense of threat or a feeling your needs and concerns are being ignored or treated as being unimportant. Until the issues are discussed and addressed openly they continue to fester and grow inside you. Your sense of grievance can understandably raise powerful emotions that may feel too much to manage. The full mix of this can make it difficult to begin to think of ways to address conflict as it arises in your relationships.

Your own life experience is significant as witnessing how conflict was managed by your parents when growing up will have an impact on you. Any previous difficult relationships you have had can also affect your view of conflict.

What tips a discussion over into an argument?
Often what tips a disagreement over the edge is our inability to control our emotions in the moment. This can be due to many factors both for yourself and as a couple. You can help yourself by exploring your emotional response to the issue. Whatever the issue or problem after it arises take some time out to reflect on it. How does it make you feel? Ask yourself why you feel that way. Think about your initial emotional response and then the deeper ones. As you reflect on it you will become aware of a range of thoughts and feelings raised by the issue. Having this emotional awareness is important. You can communicate this to your partner to help them understand how the issue affects you.

Another significant area is the assumptions you can make about your partner. You often have a certain idea or sense of why your partner behaves in the way they do and the meanings/intentions behind it. The most surprising thing for many people is to find out that your partner’s intentions are often very different from those you imagine.

The reality is you both think and feel different things and you will often have a very different take on the exact same situation. A lack of connection or understanding of this and overheated emotions can combine to increase your feelings of being misunderstood or personally attacked by your partner.

When you think about all of this its understandable how talking about your problems can develop quickly into a full-blown row.

7 tips for managing relationship conflict

  1. Be aware of yourself
    Before addressing a conflicting issue or behaviour with your partner its important to increase your awareness of how it affects you. Think about the issue and reflect on your feelings and bodily responses to it. It may be helpful to jot your thoughts down on paper. Ask yourself why you feel that way.
  2. Find a good time to talk
    You are tired, busy and in the middle of doing things or both of you are finishing off chores or getting ready for work. This is not the best moment to bring up a conflicting issue or problem. Often though this can be the time when these problems crop up! If you both feel that you aren’t able to focus on an issue as a certain point, recognise and accept this and agree to pick it up again when you both are able to.
  3. Agree to stay calm or take a time out or stop
    In order for you both to be able to express your individual thoughts, feelings and ideas around a situation you need to feel safe and listened to. Heated emotions cloud our judgement and capacity to think clearly and can lead to rows. If emotions get too much to manage take a time out, focus on deep breathing exercises for a few minutes and only come back to the table when you feel calmer. At this point pick up the conversation from an earlier point before your emotions got heated. If you do not feel able to continue agree to pick this discussion up together at another point.
  4. Clarify things
    An important starting point is for you both to think about each other’s understanding of the problem. You may be surprised to find out the differences in each other’s take on things. Once this is clarified you can explore what each other’s expectations are around that issue or scenario.
  5. Focus on connection rather than disconnection
    Keep in mind the aim is to help each other connect and understand each other. You can only imagine yourself in your partner’s shoes if you give them the chance to let you know how things are for them. By doing this you get the opportunity to feel closer to each other. Accusations and blaming only increase your separateness and disconnect from each other.
  6. Focus on behaviour and avoid personal attacks
    Addressing conflict is not helped by bringing up personal attacks on your partners characteristics or differences in personality. Focus on behaviour and don’t make generalisations. Address specific scenarios and instances that both of you recall. Try and describe how you felt and your thoughts around it. Start with “I felt… when you… it left me feeling and thinking…” This gives your partner the chance to understand how their behaviours impact on you in the moment and over time. Then give your partner the chance to share their thoughts and feelings and express their perceived intention behind their actions. Again these can be very different, accept these differences as being genuine.
  7. Remember your aim is to resolve conflict rather than “win” a fight
    Resolving conflict is not about “winning” the argument. Your overall aim is to strengthen your relationship. This is achieved by being aware of your own feelings and thoughts around the issue, understanding your partner’s feelings and thoughts and being aware how your behaviour impacts on each other. Through this point of mutual understanding you can agree on new ways to behave and respond to each other that foster a sense of working together rather than in opposition.

If your arguments and relationship conflict continues after trying out these tips don’t give up. You could benefit from seeking professional help with your relationship issues.

Mark Tonkinson





Category : Blog & CoupleStuff & Featured & Manhood & Relationships

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