How to Resolve Conflict in Relationships
Even the very best relationships have conflict. But one of the primary differences between healthy, happy
relationships and unhappy, unhealthy ones is the ability to effectively resolve conflicts whenever they occur.
Unresolved conflict can eat away at a relationship just like a few cancer cells can grow into a life-threatening
tumor. Just as cancer can kill a person, festering or frequent conflict can kill a relationship.
If you and your partner have been fighting a lot, and conflict is tearing apart your relationship, then keep
reading... there is hope!
Key elements in effectively resolving
conflicts in your relationship:
First, stay calm. No matter how angry or hurtful your partner is, you must remain calm. Easier said than done,
but if you react or escalate to your partner's level, it will only make things worse.
By staying calm and keeping your wits about you, your partner is more likely to calm down as well in time.
Listen. Really listen. If your partner is ranting or screaming or venting, just listen. Most people
who are angry really just want to be heard. They will eventually get tired of talking or reach a point where they
have said what they needed to say.
By truly listening you are also showing respect and courtesy. Often, in a conflict, both parties are just
impatiently waiting to get a word in edgewise or react to the other person. But that is not listening. And it's not
Don't interrupt or talk over the other person. When you interrupt or talk over the other person, you will often
just make him / her angrier.
Interrupting or talking over people essentially indicates that you feel what you have to say is more important
than what they have to say. It is disrespectful.
Letting them speak and finish gives the powerful message: "I value your opinion and care about you enough to
hear what you have to say." Isn't that what you want from them? You are more likely to get it in return by giving
Don't dig up the past. One of the biggest mistakes couples make is bringing up old hurts. Keeping score destroys
relationships. While you may not forget those hurts, dredging them up will accomplish nothing but make your partner
more angry and defensive.
Don't try to tackle a serious conflict when either of you is tired, hungry, stressed, or rushed. It will almost
Instead, choose a time to talk when both of you have sufficient time and energy.
Work on conflicts in private. Trying to discuss a problem when others are present or within earshot makes
It may also make your partner feel that you have a hidden agenda, such as trying to put him / her on the spot,
embarrass him, or drag others into the conflict.
Always look for the truth in what your partner says. It is very rare that only one person is "wrong" or "the
problem" when there is a conflict.
For example, if your partner states, "You never listen to anything I say", rather than getting defensive,
consider that there may be times when you haven't really listened, or you were preoccupied.
You might calmly respond with, "You are right - there are times when I have been a poor listener and that wasn't
fair to you. I'm listening now, and I really want to hear your thoughts and feelings." (And then be SURE to let
your partner keep talking!)
It takes two to tango and you both need to take ownership of your part in the conflict.
Don't resort to "dirty" or juvenile fighting. This includes things such as name calling, making threats, abuse
of any kind, or getting friends or families to take sides. These tactics are destructive. Always.
Let go of the need to be right. People who always have to be right don't have healthy relationships. If you truly value your
relationship, focus on being understanding and kind rather than right.
Ideally, both you and your partner will try to follow these guidelines. But even if you are the
only one who does, it will give you and your partner a much better chance at resolving the conflicts in your
It takes only one of you to change the course for both of you!
Do you and your partner need help with conflict resolution? If you could do with a few extra communication
skills up your sleeve, I recommend that you take a look at: