Conflict is a normal and healthy part of every relationship. Well-managed conflict can promote growth, intimacy, and trust in a relationship. Unresolved conflict, poor communication, and unhealthy interactions can chip away at the foundation of a relationship and increase relationship dissatisfaction. If you struggle to resolve conflicts in a relationship, try these strategies for changing the outcome of a disagreement.
- Do not avoid it. 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.
- Talk to each other. If you have a problem, take it directly to your partner instead of talking to friends and family. Inviting well-meaning friends and family into your relationship issues can sometimes complicate matters. Alternatively, it is important to know when you need additional support. If the situation is overwhelming or not improving, ask for help.
- Be kind to each other. Name-calling, yelling, and belittling do not resolve an issue. These behaviors detract from the problem and will often escalate an argument and damage a relationship.
- Take a breather. If you are too angry to talk about an issue, it is OK to table it. Anger affects our ability to effectively solve problems and make good decisions. If you begin to get angry, tell your partner you need to walk away for a moment. Just make sure to revisit the topic once you are calm.
- Respect your partner’s feelings. If your partner needs to take a breather, that’s OK. Give your partner space to calm down regardless of your desire to resolve an issue in the moment. Do not follow your partner if he or she leaves the room. Respect boundaries.
- Listen and clarify. Listen to each other’s points of view. Often what we think a person is saying is not what the person is trying to communicate. Clarify that what you are hearing is what your partner is trying to say.
- Positively communicate your expectations. Do it without sounding critical by using an “I” statement. Using “I” statements allows you to pose your expectation, point, frustration, or idea without making it about the other person. Instead of “You never clean up after yourself,” try “I feel frustrated when the house is a wreck because I am too tired to clean up after work.” Instead of “You never have time for me,” try “I feel lonely when we don’t have a date night once a week because I value spending time with you even with our busy schedules.”
- It is not about winning. Do not get hung up on who is right or wrong. The goal of conflict resolution is not to be right; it is to resolve a problem and move past the issue successfully.
Sometimes relationships will continue to be a struggle despite our best efforts. Resources and services are available to help get your relationship back on track. The Family Advocacy Program offers “Married and Loving It,” a class that teaches skills to strengthen your relationship, and provides counseling. Marine Corps Family Team Building offers a Real Relationships course that builds skills that promote healthy relationships and interactions. Community Counseling Program counselors also can assist you in resolving conflicts and changing your approach to relationships.
During times of stress, Military OneSource also provides non-medical counseling and makes consultants available to provide additional assistance at 800-342-9647.