Conflict with our significant other is unavoidable. No two people are the same and so it is inevitable that we will have disagreements. The amount of conflict within a relationship does not necessarily determine the success or failure of the relationship. What is most important is how conflict is handled and resolved when it does come up. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful.
- When angry, don’t blame, insult or degrade your partner. You can’t take those angry statements back and most people don’t forget those angry words thrown at them. Instead, talk about how their BEHAVIOR makes you feel. If you are angry at your significant other for not picking up after themselves then explain to him/her how that makes you feel, i.e., I feel like your maid when I have to go around picking up after you and then I get resentful toward you. Once you have voiced how you both feel about an issue proceed to #2
- Focus on finding a solution to the problem instead of trying to be right. This is a subtle but important point to remember as it can substantially change the tone and outcome of an argument. It’s easy to blame our partner and feel anger and resentment but that doesn’t resolve the issue that initially got you angry. Take some time to figure out how to prevent this from happening again or you will end up fighting this fight in the future. And, remember to compromise. If you are a clean-freak and your spouse isn’t then it is unreasonable to expect him/her to meet your standards of cleanliness.
- During conflict with your spouse stay focused on the specific issue that started the conflict. Do not bring up all the previous transgressions your partner has made over the past 25 years! It’s difficult to resolve current conflict if you begin talking about all the past things that each of you did to one another. If there are unresolved issues from the past then set aside a specific time to discuss them but it should not be in the middle of an argument about something else that is unrelated.
- While in a conflict do not threaten a divorce or to end the relationship (unless your partner committed an egregious act). Those serious types of statements should not be made in the heat of the moment and can be viewed as manipulative. A serious decision to end a relationship should be made while one is calm and level-headed.
- Keep in mind the big picture. Disagreements are a normal part of relationships and when handled correctly they can make a relationship stronger. Remind yourself that this is just one of many arguments you have had and will have during your time together. That can help keep things in perspective.