Managing Conflicts in Relationships
Valentine’s Day may be over but the season of love never ends! Continuing the conversation surrounding building healthy and long-lasting relationships, this week’s feature will focus on tackling conflict in relationships and how to manage them.
Disagreements and arguments, also known as conflicts, are completely normal in relationships. While conflicts are often viewed negatively, they are signs that both partners are invested in the relationship. On the other hand, the absence of conflict could signify that one of you has ‘checked out’. Therefore, it is important to develop healthy conflict resolution skills to build a healthy relationship which can lead to a stronger bond between partners.
Let’s dive into the measures we can adopt to manage conflicts in our relationships, healthily.
Managing Conflicts Constructively and Effectively
When resolving a conflict, it is important to try and empathise with your partner to understand how they may be feeling. The first step is to initiate a conversation about what went wrong, how each of you felt, and what could have been done to prevent the situation from escalating. This will allow you to see things from your partner’s perspective or help gain a better understanding of the situation.
The key to processing a fight is to refrain from arguing, but to talk about what actually happened. Remember that there is no absolute “reality” but rather, two subjective realities or perspective to every situation. Therefore, it is never about who is right or wrong, but rather finding a compromise and accepting responsibility to move forward together.
Step 1: Take Turns Expressing Your Feelings
Give each other the space and opportunity to share your feelings along with your respective sides of the story. By actively listening, you gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives and avoid blaming and hurting one another with spiteful words to prove a point. Always remember that your partner is not the enemy; you are a team. Therefore, aim to resolve the issue together, rather than working against each other.
Here are some words you can use when expressing how you feel:
Not listened to
My feelings got hurt
That my complaint was taken personally
Out of control
Overwhelmed with emotion
Step 2: Discuss and Validate Both Subjective Realities .
After talking it out, shift your attention to your individual feelings and needs. It is crucial to validate your partner’s experience and communicate your understanding of their perspective. Set aside your own emotions and try to empathise with your partner’s frustrations.
Validation responses can sound like:
“I understand why you felt that way.”
“It sounds like you were very upset and hurt by what I said.”
“I didn’t know that’s how I came off.”
(Reflect on what they said) “So, when I raised my voice, that made you feel attacked.”
Step 3: Accept Responsibility and Take Accountability
What role did you each play in this fight? What could have triggered this reaction that led to a fight?
Accepting responsibility looks like:
“I’ve been very stressed lately.”
“I can see that I’ve taken you for granted.”
“I know I’ve been overly critical lately.”
“I haven’t been emotionally available.”
“I’ve been expecting too much from you without telling you what I need.”
Mistakes will be made and miscommunication is bound to occur, but it is possible to make amends to repair the damage. When couples continually engage in destructive arguments without processing or understanding their partner’s perspective, conflicts can build up and escalate to become overwhelming. Don’t let an argument snowball into a catastrophic situation filled with resentment. Instead, view it as an opportunity to learn more about each other, grow together as a team, and create a more positive outcome. Here’s to healthier relationships!
*This article was reviewed by in-house mental wellbeing therapist, Alex O.