All relationships face moments of conflict and disagreement. Sometimes emotions run high, words can become hurtful, and mistakes from our past resurface, leading conversations to get out of hand. When you feel disagreements heading toward a quarrel, there are a few rules you may want to keep in mind as you navigate your arguments and work to repair your connection.
How to Disagree While Keeping Your Relationship Together
Resolving relationship conflict is all about having constructive, open, and honest communication. Couples often encounter communication blocks that hinder effective conversation, such as one or both partners staying silent, clamming up, or refusing to engage altogether. Fear may be a factor. You may worry about your partner’s reaction or retaliation to your thoughts and feelings, causing you to shut down rather than speak up to address your needs. Perhaps your partner prefers to avoid conflict by bottling up his or her issues, until he or she becomes irrational or explosive.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your line of communication open and direct between both parties. Being as direct as possible, you and your partner should state your issues as clearly and honestly as possible. There should be an understanding that your conversation is flowing from each person’s unique perspective. If you and your partner get into the habit of engaging in direct communication, it becomes easier to address and resolve relationship conflicts over time.
1. Share Your Feelings – Control Emotional Outbursts
You and your partner may be angry, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated. Remember that anger is a secondary emotion – sadness typically comes first. Emotional outbursts are likely to worsen your situation rather than improve it. Instead, rein in your emotions and explain what you are feeling and why. Try not to be critical or punish your partner for his or her perception or this may lead to an escalation of your conflicts. Behaving in a calm and compassionate demeanor will often influence your partner to follow your lead. Addressing the conversation in a calm manner gives both of you the opportunity to collect yourselves, take a deep breath, then engage.
2. Listen to Understand – Not to Respond
Your partner may be going through an issue that they have yet to work out their reasoning or determine the underlying cause as to why they feel upset or disgruntled. When your partner expresses his or her feelings and perceptions, put your personal feelings on a temporary hold in order to understand what he or she is saying. Approach your conflict with the intention to listen to what your partner is feeling and where he or she is coming from. Take a moment to pause before replying and avoid contradicting your partner’s perspective of the situation. Allow your significant other to say what is on his or her mind, then take your turn. Acknowledging your partner’s feelings can go a long way in leading to effective resolutions. Validate what he or she is feeling so that your partner feels heard and understood.
3. Do You Want Advice or Are You Looking for Validation?
Not every problem has a solution and not every issue can be resolved with sage advice. Sometimes the best thing you can do to help your partner is lend a listening ear. Don’t try to fix every situation or problem-solve. When someone you love is escalated, he or she may not be able to think critically or cognitively. In some cases, your partner may be looking for an outlet to vent his or her frustrations, knowing that you won’t always be able to resolve the problem. Ask your partner whether he or she wants your advice before imposing it upon him or her. Chance may be that he or she is looking for validation rather than a solution.
4. Concentrate on Staying Present – Come to an Optimistic Resolution
Focus on the issue at hand to stay on topic. Bringing up other issues or cross-complaining may only complicate the situation and make it more difficult to resolve. The goal is to make things better, not bitter. Do not remove yourself from the situation unless you are in danger or you absolutely need to. Walking away may cause your partner to feel dismissed or disrespected. Stay present to let your significant other know that you are here for him or her.
Communicate in a respectful, courteous way that removes the possibility of escalating the conflict. Focus on points you both agree on and accept your partner’s feedback with a mindset towards positive improvement. By working together to have constructive discussions, you and your partner can win, scoring brownie-points and building a strong, healthy foundation for communication. Approaching your conflicts with the goal of resolving or talking through your relationship problems can strengthen your connection, leading to more optimistic resolutions.
*If you and your partner are struggling to handle relationship conflicts, seek professional counseling. Contact us at Diversus Health to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed providers today. If you need to talk to someone immediately, please reach out to our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.