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conflict resolution

Effective Problem Solving

Many couples find themselves having the same argument over and over, without ever resolving the issue. Frustrations and resentment builds. To break this pattern, it can be helpful to have a framework to follow. Here are step-by-step suggestions for for more effective problem solving:

1. Get on the same side of the table. Instead of thinking of each other as the problem, think of it as the two of you against the problem. You are a team, not opponents.

2. Choose a good time. Right before bed or when you have to leave for work is not a good time to tackle a problem. When either of you is tired, cranky or preoccupied with something else is also not optimal. Try problem solving when you are calm and have enough time to complete the process.

3. Stick to the problem. It works best to solve one problem at a time. Heaping a bunch of problems on top of the issue at hand is just confusing and frustrating. Generally nothing gets resolved when you try to deal with multiple problems at once.

4. Clarify the problem. Define the problem as clearly as you can from each of your perspectives. Take turns explaining how you see and feel about the problem. Talk when it is your turn. Otherwise listen to understand your partner's perspective.

5. Brainstorm for possible solutions. When brainstorming there is no judgment. All ideas are respected and accepted. Try to come up with several different options.


6. Evaluate possible solutions. Here is where you sort through the ideas. Disregard any solutions that you both agree are completely unrealistic. If one of you likes a solution and the other does not, hang on to it. With each of the remaining solutions consider the following: a) advantages from his perspective b) advantages from her perspective c) disadvantages from his perspective d) disadvantages from her perspective Then each of you rate the desirability of each solution on a scale from 1 - 10, with 1 being undesirable and 10 being highly desirable.

7. Find a Win Win Solution. You can choose from among your solutions. You can get creative and combine or alter solutions until you find sometime that is acceptable to both. If you cannot find an alternative that satisfies both, don't give up. Consider that compromise is not a dirty word. Sometimes an attitude of, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" can help you negotiate something workable.

8. Test Your Solution.Put your plan into action for a set period of time, a week or a month. After trying it out, get back together and evaluate how it worked. If it was successful, pat yourselves on the back and continue. If it was partially successful, you may want to tweak it a bit. If it has not worked, consider that you have learned some valuable information and start over at step one.

Handling Conflict


Conflict is an inevitable part of even the best relationships.

Whether you call it fighting, disagreeing, or discussing, most relationship could benefit from less suppressed of feeling and more honest effort to resolve conflict. If you claim you have never had a conflict in your relationship, chances are one of you is not expressing their opinions or needs and will most likely end up resenting that position.

Conflict is not the problem; it is how you handle disagreements that can become the problem. When conflict escalates to a continued struggle or battle it becomes a problem. Disagreements are natural and healthy, and when handled properly they can strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. Your challenge is to face up to and resolve disagreements, rather than stuffing feelings and building walls. We like to encourage clients to build bridges rather than walls.

The following are principles that will allow you to resolve conflict in a fair and positive way:

Bite Your Tongue

Rather than allowing yourself to call your partner names, cut them with sarcasm, belittle them or in any way be disrespectful to them—bite your tongue. If harsh words pass your lips, apologize immediately. The words that you say in anger will be burned forever in your loved one’s mind; don’t say things that you will regret and can never erase.

Validate Your Partner’s Point of View

Validation does not mean agreement, but it is one of the fastest ways to take the heat out of a disagreement. When your partner feels heard and understood they don’t have to keep saying the same things over and over again. Say something like, “What I hear you saying is . . .. Have I understood you? Really try to understand what they are saying and keep the sarcasm out of your voice. Make the Problem the Problem

Work together to solve the problem, rather than attacking each other. Use "I" or "we" statements instead of "you" statements. Don’t take things too personally and stick to one problem at a time. Refuse to drag up the past to fling at your partner.

Don’t Compare

No one wants to hear how he/she should be more like their brother or sister. They also don’t want to hear how they are exactly like their mother or father. We don’t even want to be compared to our younger selves, such as your used to have hair or a great body.

Stick to the Topic

In order to resolve a conflict or issue it helps to deal with one issue at a time. Dumping all your unresolved conflicts on your partner at once, is like adding gas to a fire you are likely to create an explosion. If there are multiple issues pick one and deal with it.

Stay Calm and Use Time Outs if needed

Nobody's deaf, when you start to yell, you sham the door on any possibility of a compromise. If tempers are flaring and you find yourself losing control put the argument on "hold" or call a "time-out." It is important when deciding to take a time out to agree to meet back at a specific time when things have calmed down a little. During your time out try doing some physical activity like walking around the block or taking a shower to calm tempers.

Look for the Truth

Often in emotional fights, truth usually takes a back seat. Try not to have a “don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude, where you maintain your position no matter what. Try communicating the facts clearly. Don’t assume that you know what your partner is thinking or feeling. Always ask. Try to see things from their point of view, as if you were walking in their shoes and had their feelings and background. This doesn’t mean you agree, just that you want to understand.

Be Solution Oriented

Work together to solve the “problem.” Don’t drag in family or friends to gang up on the other person. Try out this phrase, "What can we do together to solve this problem? I am willing to do the following…" Then state what you are willing to do and then do it.

Forgive and accept each other

It is always a good idea to keep in mind that this is someone that you love and care about. Your relationship is more important that your differences. Acceptance and forgiveness are what strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. When you can accept and love each other despite your differences your bond grows stronger. When the argument is over, do something healing, such as hug or say, “ I love you."