Even in the most harmonious and healthy relationships, you’re bound to have an argument from time to time — big or small.
While it’s normal to butt heads, research shows that unresolved conflict can damage your relationship bonds. Without conflict resolution in relationships, it opens the floodgates for resentment and insecurity — which can lead to the downfall of your love story.
Even though the dramatic renditions of screaming arguments may be thrilling on TV — we think that energy should stay far away from your relationship. By advocating for healthy conflict resolution and learning key conflict management skills, you can avoid petty arguments and unnecessary break-ups.
So where do we start?
Conflict resolution in relationships is the process of addressing and resolving conflicts or disagreements which arise between partners.
Successful conflict resolution strategies rely on effective communication skills, with active listening and an open-minded approach. In order to deal with the situation in a healthy way, it’s important to take a deep breath and be mindful of your partner’s feelings — before you say something you don’t mean.
Destructive conflict comes from a place of attack, where both parties refuse to accept any viewpoint other than their own. With this destructive pattern, everything that is said only adds more fuel to the fire of the argument.
Both parties walk away from this kind of conflict even more frustrated than before.
Constructive conflict comes from a place of emotional maturity, where both parties try to understand and respect the other’s point of view. While destructive conflict only serves to escalate the situation, constructive conflict works to find a resolution.
Successful relationships rely on healthy conflict resolution, while unhealthy relationships often lapse into these destructive and toxic conflicts.
While relationship conflict is expected in most romantic pairings, it’s important to be able to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. So they don’t come back to haunt the relationship later.
“This is a vital skill to be able to do in a healthy relationship to deep intimacy and to be able to work together as a team,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.
“You are two people with two different viewpoints, conflict is normal and will come up. The process of working through conflict helps you grow closer as you work to create a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Healthy conflict in a relationship hinges on learning conflict resolution skills. It’s easy to be stubborn in the midst of difficult conversations, but you must be flexible to your partner’s point of view in order to make things work long-term.
“Embrace that conflict is not bad and think about how much you can learn about yourself and your partner,” says Seeger DeGeare.
If you find yourself having petty squabbles over nothing, it’s important to take a step back and consider how these arguments might be affecting your relationships’ well-being. Take time out to try and see the common causes of conflict in your relationship — could a new perspective and healthy communication help?
“If you feel stuck on an area, challenge yourself to focus on what is triggering your cycle of conflict, not just staying focused on making things feel better,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“Conflict is understanding the trigger, and this is how resentment builds. Conflict is normal, resentment is not.”
Unresolved conflict triggers this feeling of resentment, which is why it’s so important to take action before the relationship grows sour.
When resolving conflict, focus on your body language. Show that you are open to a peaceful resolution with good eye contact, or even offer your hand to make your partner feel reassured and understood.
Constant arguments or bickering can break your relationship, especially if you don’t know how to communicate without resorting to name-calling or personal attacks during heated exchanges.
If you feel that conflict has come to dominate your relationship, it can be difficult to know how to break the cycle.
“Embrace that at any given moment, you are functioning better than the other person,” says Seeger DeGeare.
Intimate relationships are all about compromise, with effective conflict management skills key to finding a fair resolution. By leaning on emotional intelligence, rather than lapsing into angry outbursts, it’s easier to find a middle ground that is sympathetic to both points of view.
“Can that feel balanced overall, and can one of you take the lead in guiding both out of the argument? If not, sit with being open to working it out, and work from a place of curiosity and openness to how you might feel when you do,” says Seeger DeGeare.
If you’re struggling to find a safe space to resolve conflict, it could be time to seek professional help or consider couples therapy.