Disagreements in a relationship are not only
normal but, if constructively resolved, actually strengthen the relationship.
It is inevitable that there will be times of sadness, tension, or outright
anger between you and your partner. The source of these problems may lie in
unrealistic/unreasonable demands, unexplored expectations, or unresolved
issues/behaviors in one partner or in the relationship. Resolving conflicts
requires honesty, a willingness to consider your partner’s perspective even if
you don’t fully understand it, and lots of communication.
when there are important decisions regarding sex, career, marriage, and family
to be made. The following are some guidelines for successful communication and
Each Others’ Family Patterns. Find out how conflicts were
managed (or not managed) in your partner’s family, and talk about how
conflict was approached (or avoided) in your own family. It is not unusual
for couples to discover that their families had different ways of
expressing anger and resolving differences. If your family wasn’t good at
communicating or resolving conflict constructively, give yourself
permission to try out some new ways of handling conflict.
to previous notions, the best time to resolve a conflict may not be
immediately. It is not unusual for one or both partners to need some time
to cool off. This “time-out’ period can help you avoid saying or
doing hurtful things in the heat of the moment, and can help partners more
clearly identify what changes are most important. Remember – if you are
angry with your partner but don’t know what you want yet, it will be
nearly impossible for your partner to figure it out!
an Atmosphere of Emotional Support. Emotional support involves
accepting your partner’s differences and not insisting that he or she meet
your needs only in the precise way that you want them met. Find out how
your partner shows his or her love for you, and don’t set absolute
criteria that require your partner to always behave differently before
to Disagree and Move On. Most couples will encounter
some issues upon which they will never completely agree. Rather than continuing
a cycle of repeated fights, agree to disagree and negotiate a compromise
or find a way to work around the issue.
between things you want versus things you need from your partner. For
example, for safety reasons, you might need your partner to remember to
pick you up on time after dark. But calling you several times a day may
really only be a “want.”
Your Messages. A clear message involves a respectful but direct
expression of your wants and needs. Take some time to identify what you
really want before talking to your partner. Work on being able to describe
your request in clear, observable terms. For example, you might say,
“I would like you to hold my hand more often” rather than the
vague, “I wish you were more affectionate.”
One Thing at a Time. It can be tempting to list your concerns or
grievances, but doing so will likely prolong an argument. Do your best to
keep the focus on resolving one concern at a time.
a good listener requires the following: (a) don’t interrupt, (b) focus on
what your partner is saying rather than on formulating your own response,
and (c) check out what you heard your partner say. You might start this
process with: “I think you are saying…” Or “what I understood
you to say was…” This step alone can prevent misunderstandings that
might otherwise develop into a fight.
has found that couples who “edit” themselves and do not say all
the angry things they may be thinking are typically the happiest.
a “Win-Win” Position. A “win-win” stance
means that your goal is for the relationship, rather than for either
partner, to “win” in a conflict situation. Ask yourself:
“Is what I am about to say (or do) going to increase or decrease the
odds that we’ll work this problem out?”