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handling conflict

Fighting Fair

It may seem like a contradiction to say that we should fight fair, but fighting dirty is a definite relationship killer. Unfortunately far too many couples resort to dirty tactics when their tempers flare. Although it may momentarily feel satisfying to win that battle, just remember that each time you destroy your partner in a fight you put your relationship at greater risk of failing. Here are some suggestions that can help you to solve disagreements in a positive way:

Be Respectful This is true at all times. Name calling, sarcasm or nasty teasing are never a good idea. If you slip and say something disrespectful apologize right away.

Validate Each Other's Thoughts and Feelings Saying things like, "It seems that you are really frustrated and I hear that you would like me to . . . " helps the other person to feel heard and understood. This can this means that one person talks at a time, rather than trying to outshout each other.

Make The Problem The Problem Visualize that it is the two of you against the problem. Try not to make each other the problem.

Tackle One Problem At A Time Don't get side tracked into bringing up all the past issues you can think of. Deal with the problem at hand.

Couple Arguing

Use "Time Outs" Wisely If you find that either partner's temper is getting hot, take a time out. If your partner requests a time out, honor that request. Use the time out to calm yourself down. Make sure that after the time out is over you finish dealing with the problem.

Listen to Understand This is probably one of the most important things that you can do to reduce conflict. Everyone wants to feel hear and understood. Giving that gift to your partner may make it easier for him/her to listen to you.

Deal With Needs Rather Than Positions Rather than taking a stand and sticking to it, try to identify the needs underneath your position. Try to find a way for both of you to get what you need, perhaps not exactly what you think you each want, but a way that works for both.

Communicate Clearly Don't play games, or beat around the bush. You cannot solve a problem if you cannot understand what the problem is.

Forgive and Accept Each Other Forgiveness and acceptance are incredibly healing. Be kind to each other.

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."