6 Simple Steps to Resolve Conflict in Relationships

Conflict in relationships can be beneficial and bring balance to your life. Resolving conflict within your relationship may require many different skills depending on the situation at the time. You may want to set boundaries by agreeing to start with the small stuff when you communicate your concerns and what you really want, other times you may use humor, and other times your listening skills will be required. 

Many people react differently to situations depending on their "triggers" and previous experiences to conflict resolution (what they experienced from their caregivers growing up, and previous relationships) to move forward the best way they know how.

Maybe you or your partner's previous experience of conflict has been in unhealthy relationships where there were personal attacks, or one partner threatened to walk away.

Conflict in relationships is a major part of learning to effectively resolve differences, spending time to understand one another, find a "middle ground," and when done in a healthy way, the relationship will be stronger as a result; you will have a healthy relationship!

“We have found that the success or failure of a marriage depends not on whether there is conflict, but on how conflict is handled when it does occur.”— John Gottman's Research

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Initially, people are more often than not attracted to their partner because of their differences; opposites attract. For example, an introverted person will attract an extroverted partner, and vice versa. This gives people in relationships the opportunity to create a balance in their life.

Couples give each other contrasting experiences so they can transform and enhance one another; it's human nature at work. As already mentioned, people are "initially" attracted to one another because of the differences they possess, however, as relationships develop, so can frustrations.

Knowing, understanding, and having an ability to relate to your partner who once appeared endearing goes out of the window. Instead of being loving, you're now arguing. Relationships are your opportunity to heal unresolved issues within yourself. 

"How" you resolve (or don't resolve) conflict in relationships is another matter! 

With relationships, there are 6 simple steps you can use to support you and your partner to resolve conflict and differences quickly.

6 Simple Steps and Tips to Resolve Conflict

1. Don't Take Things Personally!

It's easy to take things to heart, take things personally, particularly when it involves an intimate partner. Harsh words expressed by your loved one when you're fighting may bring up feelings of abandonment and rejection for you, which may trigger the fight (fight back), flight (run away), or freeze (shutdown and withdraw) response in you. 

Don Miguel recommends not to take anything personally, regardless of how someone acts or behaves; it is based on them, not you! You are not responsible for your partner's behavior, just as it is not your partner's responsibility for how you think, feel, and behave. Your partner is also not responsible for your happiness. Understand the next time your partner becomes reactive, it is about them, so don't take it personally.

Don Miguel
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“Don't take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.”

2. One Issue at a Time

Have you ever entered an argument or disagreement with someone and brought up every issue you can think of, including the kitchen sink, and it had "nothing" to do with your current disagreement? Does your critical inner voice keep reminding you of all those misdeeds you've been tallying up that your partner did, which may even go back years? Bringing up issues that are not related to your current problem is not helpful if you want to resolve a problem. Stick to one issue at a time.

3. Avoid Avoidance 

Are you a "don't rock the boat" type of person? 

Is this how you manage conflict in your relationships? When you ignore an issue, you're not managing conflict, you're delaying your issues for another day. In fact, unresolved issues can fester and create resentment, which is when you bring up more than one issue at a time. 

An example of a conflict that's delayed could be your partner didn't take the trash out and you ignore it but you make "snide" remarks towards your partner for forgetting your birthday two weeks ago. I call this approach avoidance conflict—avoid the issue to avoid a conflict, but it is difficult to resolve any issues using this style of communication. 

Avoidance, believe it or not, is power and control to manipulate your partner to do what you want by creating guilt; you play the martyr. When an issue arises, and you've identified it as an "unmet need," deal with it as soon as possible. 

4. Pick Your Battles

There will be many/many things that may cause you to become disgruntled with your partner, but if you focus on every little thing, your relationship will revolve around (and focus on) the negatives. Learn from previous situations when you resolved issues. 

Pick your battles and those things important to you. Every issue in a relationship is an "unmet need." Consider what need is not being met in your relationship and how can you get this need met. 

Can your unmet need be fulfilled through joining an online event? Can you connect with friends online? Can they meet your unmet need? Or is it something that has to be met in a relationship? For example, you feel your partner takes you for granted and only your partner can express their gratitude to you for what you do.

Quick Tip

Every issue in a relationship is an unmet need.

5. Conflict Styles

Know your conflict style so you and your partner can manage conflict effectively. In times of disagreement, consider whether you or your partner:

  • get angry
  • withdraw love and attention
  • pursue and criticize
  • blame and become a victim, or
  • fuss, smother, ignore issue and try to fix 

All the above (and more) can cause confusion, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and difficulties to solve differences within a relationship. When you know your personality traits, what tactics you both use, you can be more conscious and behave differently.

6. Take Turns

For conflict resolution, it's important that you take turns listening to one another and "hear" each other's concerns. Coming from a place of love and curiosity will support your partner to express their needs. 

Try not to judge and interpret your partner's concerns; all concerns are valid. Clarify what your partner said to make sure you fully understand what you've been told, and your partner will feel listened to and supported. 

For example, when your partner tells you they feel unsupported with household chores, repeat back to them, "You feel unsupported when I don't help with the dishes after dinner. Did I hear that correctly?" 

When your partner confirms, or elaborates further their concern ask, "What do you need from me?" Or, "Do you have a request?"

Quick Tip

All conflict is an unmet need and a competition for power, but not all competition for power ends up in conflict.

In Summary

Relationships can cause stress, be a struggle, and a challenge. When you move into fear, you compete for power with your partner; all conflict is a competition for power, but not all competition for power ends up in conflict.

When you center yourself, align with your heart, ​you will come from a place of love rather than fear.

Turn your relationship differences into an opportunity to further expand who you are and understand your partner better.

It only takes one person in the relationship to change their response to transform the outcome. Before you know it, you and your partner are really compatible. 

If you wish to further explore how to transform your relationship and resolve conflict, select the "Service" in the link below and click "Continue" to book a session with me via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or Free Conference Call. 

I look forward to connecting.

Until next time


Sharon Craig, Relationship Coach and Dating Coach

Coach 2 Connect

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If you would like to have a deeper understanding of the power patterns at play and why you experience conflict in your relationship, check out my book, "Female Power Archetypes" on Amazon by clicking the link below!

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Whether you realize it or not, there’s a story that governs your relationships. There are unconscious patterns, stories, and programs that shape your behavior in our relationships. To recognize and change these behaviors you need to know how power archetypes are at work in your relationships.

You have a dominant power archetype that determines how you react in times of need, and being overwhelmed, stressed, and afraid. By learning your dominant power archetype you can uncover the heart of the conflict in your relationships and move into a place of confidence, balance, and happiness.

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