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How to Resolve Conflict in Relationships

Conflict doesn’t destroy relationships. Breakups are caused by not knowing what successful conflict resolution in relationships  looks like.

In my course on resolving conflict (I’m getting my Social Work degree at UBC), I learned these tips for successful conflict resolution in relationships. I’m gearing these tips towards love partnerships and marriages, but they can be applied to any family relationship.

Communication Miracles for Couples by Jonathan Robinson is an excellent book on conflict resolution in love relationships. An important thing to remember about resolving conflict is that the majority of people have a negative response to conflict. Most families don’t learn how to resolve conflict, and this negative attitude toward conflict is handed down from generation to generation.

Even though we don’t like to experience conflict in our relationships, we have to remember that resolving conflict can be positive. Successful conflict resolution can lead to healthier, happier relationships.

Tips for Conflict Resolution in Relationships

The key to successful conflict resolution in relationships is the realization that conflict is a natural and inevitable part of life. Our reaction to conflict is what makes a situation – and its outcome – constructive or destructive. We always have a choice about how we deal with our conflicts, and our choice makes resolving conflict a destructive or constructive experience.

Conflict is inevitable in our daily lives. Conflict occurs at work, in personal relationships, in family relationships, and even when you schedule an appointment to get your car fixed! Successful conflict resolution in relationships involves recognizing there are a number of alternatives at our disposal about how to handle problems.

It’s not conflict itself that’s the problem. The problem is our attitude towards conflict, and how we deal with it. Dealing with conflict can be time-consuming, emotionally draining and destructive. It can also be energizing and growth-producing. Unresolved conflict in relationships and rigid, fixed patterns of reacting to conflict are problematic and even dangerous.

If conflict in resolution in relationships is the least of your problems because your husband won’t communicate, read 5 Ways to Cope With a Critical Husband.

Blaming your partner doesn’t help with conflict resolution in relationships. You are responsible for how you feel, what you say, how you respond to your partner, and how you act in arguments or conflict situations. If you want to resolve conflict when you’re in love, you have to take responsibility for your feelings, thoughts, and actions. Further, both partners respond to one another in terms of their perceptions of the relationship and the conflict.

Sometimes it’s better to walk away. Even though successful conflict resolution is the goal, it’s occasionally better to avoid conflict. Avoidance is a legitimate option if it keeps you and your loved ones physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe. Resolving conflict is about knowing the best choice to make.

Talking isn’t always a way to resolve conflict. Communication will not necessarily make things better. You may know this from past relationships, or past failures to resolve conflict in your relationship. Talking can only get you so far. If you know you talking isn’t a successful route to conflict resolution in relationships, you might need to talk to a mediation counselor.

The context of a conflict gives it meaning and creates expectations for behavior. Couples in a relationship are motivated both to cooperate and to compete in conflict situations. Similarly, partners are motivated both to save their relationship and to destroy their relationship in conflict situations.

Not all conflicts are resolvable. Sometimes the healthiest way to resolve conflict in a relationship is to walk away. For instance, in 10 Signs of a Bad Relationship I discuss the harmful tendency of a partner criticizing and putting down the person he loves. This is a type of conflict that won’t be resolved if he doesn’t see how destructive his words and actions are. Abuse is another example of conflict resolution in relationships that can’t be resolved unless the abuser changes.

resolving conflict in relationships

“How to Resolve Conflict in Relationships” image by Laurie

Conflict can be positive. Resolving conflict in your relationship is an opportunity for growth and personal transformation. Successful conflict resolution in relationships is about welcoming conflict into our lives. Try to shift from a negative to a more positive frame of mind, and see conflict as an opportunity for constructive change.

If you want to hire a conflict mediator to help you resolve conflict in your relationship, know that the best mediators are also those who are not afraid of conflict. Good mediators deal with conflict directly, rather than shy away from it. Mediators try to promote more positive approaches to conflict among disputants through interventions such as reframing, providing positive connotations; expressing hope; and acknowledging and respecting diversity.

I welcome your thoughts on conflict resolution in relationships below. I can’t help you resolve conflict in your love life, but I’m happy to listen to anything you have to say!

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For more tips on conflict resolution in relationships, read How to Communicate Better in a Relationship – 20 Simple Tips.

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