The word conflict might send a shiver down your spine, but did you know that conflict can actually be good for you? Conflict is a normal and healthy part of every relationship.  Well-managed conflict can promote growth, intimacy, and trust in a relationship.  

However, when left unresolved, conflicts and the factors that feed into it — poor communication and unhealthy interactions — can chip away at the foundation of a relationship and increase relationship dissatisfaction.  Check out the guidelines below in order to manage conflict fairly in your relationships.

  1. Do not avoid the conflict – Although sometimes it seems like the path of least resistance, avoiding the issue will not make it go away.  Pick a time and a place to discuss the problem.  Leaving the issue unresolved only ensures that you will have to deal with it again.
  2. Talk to each other – If you have a problem, consider first taking it directly to your partner instead of talking to friends and family.  Inviting well-meaning friends and family into your relationship problems can sometimes complicate matters.  At the same time, know when it is time to look for additional support and relying on friends and other important groups. If the problem is overwhelming or not improving, ask for help.
  3. Be kind to each other – Name calling, yelling, and belittling does not resolve an issue.  These behaviors detract from the problem and will often escalate an argument and damage a relationship.  
  4. Take a breather – If you are too mad to talk about an issue, it is okay to table it.  Anger impacts our ability to effectively solve problems and make good decisions.  Walk away if you begin to get angry. Just make sure to revisit the topic once you are calm.
  5. Respect your partner’s feelings – If your partner needs to take a breather, let them.  It is important that you give your partner space to calm down regardless of your desire to resolve an issue in the moment (see the tip above!).  Do not follow them if they need to walk away – if they need a moment, your presence may not help them de-escalate their feelings. Respect their boundaries.   
  6. Listen and clarify – Listen to each other’s point of view.  Often what we think a person is saying is not what they are trying to communicate.  Clarify that what you are hearing is what your partner is trying to say.
  7. It is not about winning – It’s hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but do not get hung up on who is right or wrong.  The goal of conflict resolution is not to be right; it is to successfully resolve a problem and move past the issue.

Sometimes relationships will continue to be a struggle despite our best efforts.  Check out some of the following resources to help you resolve issues and get your relationship back on track. 

If you're looking for more help, try the following resources:

Family Advocacy Program (The Family Advocacy program also provides a class called “Married and Loving It” that may be helpful)
Community Counseling
Marine and Family Life Counselors