6 Better Ways to Deal With Conflicts in Your Relationship
6 Better Ways to Deal With Conflicts in Your Relationship
By Laura D. Miller / psychologytoday.com

Intimate relationships bring up intense feelings. Conflict with a partner can feel destabilizing, and make it difficult to be articulate and openly expressive. Many people try to avoid conflict through a variety of maneuvers—pretending to always agree, being aggressively stubborn so the other person is too afraid to speak up, or avoiding topics that could bring up disagreement.

There are always issues in romantic relationships that really get us going. These often relate to our childhood experiences with important others—experiences that were painful, and the emotions of which are stirred up when a similar situation occurs again.

Having someone recognize your deepest fears and offer reassurance can be extremely reparative. Using words to state what you believe the other person is saying can relieve their fear of being dismissed, left alone, or not taken seriously.

Being able to fight productively often brings a couple closer and strengthens their relationship; here are six ways to do this.  

1. Convey Active Listening

Repeat back to your partner what you think you’ve heard him or her say, and ask clarifying questions. This is important even when you think your partner is being irrational. You don’t have to agree with your partner’s point of view to take their feelings seriously. People often assume they know what someone has said, but they have actually misunderstood in a vital way. This can lead to a repeat fight the next week.

Clarify! Even if it seems redundant.

2. Be Authentic

If you don’t understand what your partner is saying, don’t pretend you do; ask for more explanation. And if you can’t apologize honestly, don’t. Placating someone to end conflict can make the other person feel manipulated and dismissed. Try to let go of a need to be the “good one” in the relationship and stay with the goals of closeness and understanding. If you’re angry, it’s OK to show that. It’s a myth that the healthiest arguments are always calm and contained—that’s just not a realistic expectation in an intimate relationship.

3. Set Reasonable Boundaries

If things get out of hand, it’s important that both partners know that they can set limits that will be respected. This safety is key to healthy fighting. It’s essential that couples learn to recognize when an argument is too heated and about to get out of hand so they can take a breather.

What’s important is to come back to the issue at a later point. It may help to clearly establish when this will be so that both parties know their concerns are not being swept under the rug. Keep in mind that some people become enraged by an attempt to pause an argument because of past experiences when this tool was used to dismiss them.

4. Employ a Well-timed Call-back

Does your fight feel familiar? Most couples endlessly repeat different versions of the same fight. There's nothing wrong with that; it happens to all of us. But if you notice you’re going down a road that led you nowhere the last time, and point that out tactfully (rather than “Here we go again!”) you may be able to have a productive dialogue about how to communicate more effectively and avoid that pitfall.

If both parties are curious about what’s going on between them—what each person contributes to the interaction—they can begin to work things out together.

5. Physical Gestures Go a Long Way

Even if things can’t be resolved immediately, it’s important for your partner to know that you still care. Sometimes it’s hard to say “I love you” when you feel hurt and angry. A physical gesture can be reassuring at a moment when your partner is feeling anxious and distant. However, it’s important to respect the other person’s signals and not push too far for physical closeness when they may not feel receptive.

Continuing to openly give yourself to the relationship, even during a rocky period, allows both partners to recognize that conflict doesn’t have to mean the end. This emphasizes the goal of strengthening the relationship, rather than making the other person bend to your will.

6. Have Patience

It takes time to work through core conflicts in relationships. We all have baggage that stays with us. Remember that conflicts lessen in intensity over time, leading to greater mutual understanding.

Laura D. Miller, LCSW, is a third-year candidate at the William Alanson White Institute and a graduate of the Intensive Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy program at the White Institute. She has a special interest in working with the immigrant population and has published on the topics of immigration and parental infidelity. She is in private practice in Manhattan and teaches Direct Clinical Practice at Columbia University School of Social Work.

4.2 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 24,655 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 10,926 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,615 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Why I Didn't Vote Trump or Hillary
Joe Brewer · 2,196 views today ·   This is my ballot. It arrived in the mail where I live in Washington state — and I’ve already sent it back to the elections committee. Note how I didn’t vote for either...
How Big Banks Launder Money and Get Away With It
9 min · 2,159 views today · 'I wrote about how money laundering was actually done... they spiked it.' Parliamentary Candidate David Malone was a popular second choice in the UK Green Party leadership...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,929 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 1,375 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Heartbreaking Animation Reveals Plight of Animals Under Threat of Extinction
3 min · 1,335 views today · This stunning and heartbreaking animation gives voice to animals under threat from human activity. Made as part of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, it features a...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,053 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 892 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 825 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
A Beautiful Reflection on What It Means to Be Human
8 min · 774 views today · Hello! We are Oh Wonder, a musical duo from London. We believe that everyone is equal. We are all human. We all deserve the world. And we can build that equality by sharing...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 699 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 649 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 616 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 481 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 436 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 434 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 360 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 355 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
6 Better Ways to Deal With Conflicts in Your Relationship