Male and female experiencing relationship difficultiesConflict. It’s part of our lives, and it’s only natural that as spouses develop intimacy and interdependence they become more vulnerable to each other. As this vulnerability increases, conflict in the relationship becomes inevitable.  We often perceive conflict as something negative; however research shows that not all conflict is bad. In fact, some conflicts produce positive outcomes for relationships. Conflict often allows couples to express their feelings, which is a really important step in creating solutions to their problems.


Conflict in Relationships

Typically, couples that are unhappy in their relationship tend to have more negative interactions with each other. This may include attacks, threats, put downs, hostility, rejection and defensiveness. Sometimes they get caught up in these negative behaviors and their relationship begins to spiral downwards and becomes difficult to escape.   Often, it becomes a sequence where couples either:

Complain and counter complain;

·      One attacks and the other defends; or

·      One partner attacks and the other withdraws.


Navigating the Conflict

Remember, it takes two people to contribute to the conflict. It is therefore important to identify each other’s triggers and communicate your feelings to each other.

The manner in which the conflict is managed is important. The following tips will help with this.

1. A fundamental part of managing conflict is not to blame the other person.  Stay focused on yourself and start your sentences with “I” rather than “you”.  This will make a difference to the other person because it says to them that you are taking responsibility rather than casting criticism.

2. Try to compromise and meet the other person half way. Resolving conflict is not about proving something or someone right or wrong but willingness to apologise and when the time is right, the willingness to forgive. Always keep in mind that it takes a strong person to admit they have made a mistake.

3. Another thing that’s counterintuitive to conflict resolution is controlling your partner. Don’t tell the other person how to behave. It’s likely they’ll feel like they’re being treated like a child and they will rebel, making resolution more unlikely.

4. Take time out when you need it. Resolving conflict when emotions are high is simply not going to work. If you feel that your anger is escalating, walk away, cool off and discuss the issue at a later time.  The goal of time out is to calm down so that you and your partner can listen and discuss issues with each other in a mature way.

5. Understand that not all problems can be resolved. We all have different opinions and each person may handle the same situation differently. Be willing to acknowledge that having a different opinion is okay.  Couples can live together and have different opinions.  No one in the relationship should feel forced to change.  Sometimes accepting there is a difference in opinion is enlightening for the relationship.

6. Focus on the present. Holding onto past grudges is destructive. If you are finding it difficult to let go of the past, chances are it will hurt your relationship. This may be a good time to seek professional help.

7. Finally, managing conflict requires the skills of listening, understanding and being sensitive to each other’s feelings.  Learning how to manage conflict is an important skill and is key in maintaining a healthy relationship.

If you would like to discuss your relationship issues with a trained counsellor, then contact Creating Change today on 02 8883 3185.