Conflict Resolution Strategies

Shannen Barry
May 8, 2024
5 min read
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Mastering Conflict Resolution in Your Relationship

Conflict is a natural aspect of relationships. You can have an incredible relationship, but there’s bound to be some things that you will fight about. The aim isn’t to stop all conflict -  it's about learning to navigate those rocky moments skillfully so they bring you closer, not pull you apart.

Let's be real for a moment. We've all been there - emotions are intense, tensions are high, and neither of you are backing down. In the heat of the moment, it's tempting to hurl accusations and low blows. But that's not going to resolve anything; it will only trap you in an endless cycle of dysfunction.

Before we dive deeper into resolution strategies, I want to be clear - if you and your partner are fighting every single day with no sign of productive resolutions, that's a major red flag something needs to change. Frequent blow-out arguments or walking on eggshells around each other is not normal or sustainable long-term.While occasional disagreements or heated discussions can be worked through, constant yelling, name-calling, aggressive behavior, and toxic putdowns signal there are likely deeper underlying issues eroding the foundation of your partnership. Persistent, severely negative communication patterns are often a symptom of greater problems like resentment, betrayal, incompatibility, or even emotional abuse. If this is the case, my advice would be to first pause and do some serious self-reflection about whether this relationship is serving you both in a healthy way anymore. Sometimes people simply grow apart over time, or were never truly compatible to begin with despite chemistry. Other times, conflicts stem from repairable issues like lack of boundaries, communication breakdowns, or trust violations that can be worked through with professional guidance. The key is getting real with yourself about whether the constant fighting is a red flag of bigger irreconcilable differences, or just a cycle you've gotten stuck in that counseling could help break. Don't be afraid to enlist help from a therapist or relationship coach, either as a couple or individually. An outside perspective can shed light on what's really going on.

Ultimately, while disagreements in relationships are perfectly normal, constant fighting and pervasive negativity is not something to just "work through" alone. That's a surefire path to resentment, emotional damage, and an unhealthy, potentially toxic situation for everyone involved. If constant conflict is your reality, the healthiest thing may be to hit pause and reassess whether this relationship has become more damaging than positive in its current state.

Of course, I'm not advocating walking away from an otherwise healthy partnership over every argument. My intent is never to encourage people to give up at the first sign of challenges. By "constant fighting," I mean a consistent pattern of communication breakdowns, hostility, and inability to resolve conflicts in a productive way over an extended period of time. Those are red flags worth pausing to examine.For most couples who argue or nitpick occasionally but still maintain a baseline of respect, trust, and care for one another, the conflict resolution strategies we're discussing can go a long way in stopping arguments from spiraling into relationship-ending territory. The key is being able to fight fairly, resolve disagreements from a loving space, and not stay stuck in perpetual combat mode.

To transform fights into opportunities for growth and deeper connection, you need to get your conflict resolution skills on point. Let's explore some effective tips to help you and your partner turn arguments into productive resolutions.

Establish "Fighting Rules" and Intentions

Before diving into specific strategies, it's crucial to have an open discussion with your partner about establishing "fighting rules" or guidelines for how you'll approach conflicts. What does fighting fair look like for your relationship? For example, you might need clear intentions from your partner when entering an argument, such as "I'm not trying to attack you, I just want to understand your perspective better." Or you may have certain topics or trigger points that require extra care and sensitivity. The key is to get on the same page about boundaries, communication styles, and what's considered unacceptable behaviour during disagreements. This proactive step can help prevent conflicts from escalating unnecessarily.

Walk and Talk

When tensions are running high, sometimes the best solution is to take a literal walk together. Getting out of the heated environment and moving your bodies can help diffuse intense emotions and create space for more level-headed discussion. As you walk side-by-side, focus on breathing deeply and allowing the physical movement to release some of the pent-up energy from the argument. You may find that the simple act of walking and getting fresh air naturally shifts your perspective and makes resolving the issue feel more approachable. This "walk and talk" technique can be especially useful if you're both highly reactive or tend to get trapped in cyclical, unproductive fighting patterns when staying in one place. Walking side-by-side rather than directly facing each other can make it easier to broach uncomfortable topics. Sometimes looking ahead instead of making direct eye contact creates a sense of emotional safety that allows you both to open up more vulnerably.

Timing is Everything: No Drinking Before Resolution

While a glass of wine or cocktail might seem like a way to take the edge off during a disagreement, it's generally wise to avoid drinking alcohol until after a resolution has been reached. Alcohol can lower inhibitions and impair judgment, making it easier for hurtful words to be said and intensifying emotional responses.Establish a firm boundary with your partner that you'll refrain from drinking until the conflict has been worked through and resolved, at least on a surface level. Once you've had a chance to cool down, hear each other out, and find some common ground (even if it's agreeing to disagree for the time being), then you can responsibly enjoy a drink if you'd like.The goal is to prevent alcohol from exacerbating tensions or leading to deeply wounding words that could create lasting scars in the relationship. Fighting while under the influence often means fighting unfairly.This can be also said if you are annoyed with your partner over something, and you’ve held it in and not communicated about it.

This is something I used to struggle with in my own relationship. Resentment would secretly build as I suppressed disagreements or unhappiness, rather than addressing issues as they arose. Thanks to some deeply-rooted people-pleasing tendencies, I used to hold things in to avoid starting a fight. However, when alcohol entered the mix during nights out, that housed resentment would come spilling out in an uncontrolled torrent directed at my partner. What started as relatively minor annoyances left unaddressed would snowball. So much pain and conflict could have been avoided if I had just learned to address issues in the moment, before they festered into regrettable blowouts.

I worked on my communication skills and people pleasing tendancies that now if an issue arises, I can tackle it head on, anad not keep it in and let it fester.

Active Listening: The Key to Feeling Heard

One of the biggest barriers in conflict is feeling unheard and misunderstood. You're expressing your thoughts and feelings, but your partner seems disengaged or dismissive. This is where active listening comes in. It's not just nodding along while mentally preparing your next rebuttal. It's being fully present, maintaining eye contact, and truly absorbing what your partner is saying. It's giving them your undivided attention and making them feel truly heard, which is what we all crave in relationships.

"I" Statements: Taking the Blame Out of the Game

It's easy to fall into the blame game when tensions are high. Finger-pointing and "you" statements like "You always flake on me!" only put your partner on the defensive and escalate the conflict. Instead, try using "I" statements to express your feelings and concerns without accusing or blaming. For example, "I feel frustrated when plans get changed last minute." This approach takes the edge off and creates a more open environment for resolution.

Identifying the Root Cause: Digging Deeper

Even when conflict rages on the surface, there's often an underlying root cause that sparked the disagreement. It could be trust issues, differing expectations, conflicting values or needs, or something deeper. Before finding a resolution, it's crucial to identify the root cause together. Having an understanding of the underlying issue opens the door to real, lasting solutions rather than just addressing symptoms.Sometimes, the root cause requires more than a single conversation. Don't be afraid to take breaks and revisit the discussion when you've both had a chance to reflect and approach it with a clear mindset.

Compromise: Meeting in the Middle

Conflicts don't always end with one person conceding entirely, as that can breed resentment. The real progress happens when both partners are willing to compromise and meet in the middle.Of course, finding that middle ground can be challenging when emotions are running high. Try taking time to pause, reflect, and visualise where there's room for compromise. Imagine what it would feel like to find a mutually agreeable solution that honors both perspectives. This mental exercise can help create clarity and openness to compromise.

Agreeing to Disagree: Respecting Different Perspectives

Not every disagreement requires an immediate resolution. It's okay to recognise that you're two individuals with different thoughts, beliefs, and preferences, and you won't always see eye-to-eye. The key is to express your perspectives respectfully, listen to each other, and know when to let an issue go, at least temporarily.Of course, this doesn't apply to major issues like core values, life goals, or fundamental incompatibilities. For significant conflicts, it's essential to stay in open communication and seek professional help if you're getting caught in recurring unresolved patterns.

Seeking Professional Support

Even the most emotionally intelligent couples can benefit from seeking professional support from time to time. Maintaining a healthy relationship is work, and sometimes you need an objective third party to provide guidance, unpack underlying issues, and model healthy communication habits.Whether it's a counselor, therapist, or a relationship coach, don't hesitate to bring in reinforcements. An impartial perspective can shine a light on the root causes of conflicts and help you both focus on productive resolutions.

After working through a conflict, it's crucial to actively rebuild trust and extend forgiveness. Take time to physically and emotionally reconnect, whether through quality time, gestures that speak to each other's love languages, or physical intimacy. Let go of residual hurt, make space for forgiveness, and appreciate how you weathered the storm together, emerging with a deeper bond.Conflict is natural and can even be healthy when approached with awareness and care. Real, secure relationships allow space for disagreements but also provide the tools and mindsets to power through them skillfully.Conflicts may be unavoidable, but miserable, perpetually hostile relationships don't have to be your destiny. Master the skills to hear each other fully, identify root causes, compromise where possible, know when to take breaks, and seek support when needed. Proactively discuss guidelines for "fighting fair" tailored to your dynamic.

Consistently put in the work to resolve conflicts with care, intention, and healthy boundaries. In doing so, you'll not only survive the storms of disagreement but emerge stronger, more connected, and with a deeper understanding of each other. The makeups will be even sweeter.

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