Conflict Resolution

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on Conflict Resolution

Dealing with conflict styles and unresolved issues constructively

What brings a couple to counseling?

Most of the time, couples need help managing a significant difference in conflict resolution style. For couples that share the same or similar style, there is usually less conflict. Partners who share the same conflict management style work well together and can navigate problems effectively. Even if both partners seek out conflict, this may not be an unhappy situation.

Unhappiness usually results from a conflict resolution mismatch, such as an avoidant partner who evades disagreements, and a seeker partner who engages conflict head on. Mismatched conflict styles pose significant challenges for addressing problems and managing disagreements satisfactorily. In this situation, resolution often becomes unproductive, arguments tend to be circular, and conflict may build up between partners, leading to resentment.

Managing the effects of conflict before resentment sets in is a much better approach in the long run. It keeps resolution focused, and more easily accomplished. Disagreements between partners are harder to resolve if old resentments cloud current relationship issues.

Conflict is Normal

It is not necessarily a good thing when a couple says ”we never fight.” Arguments don’t have to be heated for conflict to arise. What is key is how you fight. A certain amount of conflict is healthy. In fact, if disagreements never occur, it probably means that the relationship may include a disproportionate amount of avoidance. Sharing a life with someone means that disagreements are inevitable. The goal is not to avoid it, but to manage conflict in a productive and effective manner.

Unresolved Issues are Okay

Two-thirds of a couple’s arguments are unresolvable, meaning that they simply won’t be sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction.

So, how does a couple manage unresolved issues?

  • First, resist a winner-loser setup when discussing unresolved issues. It is generally unproductive. No one wants to be the loser.
  • Second, avoid repeatedly allowing one partner to repeatedly give in or make peace. This quickly leads to resentment.

Conflict Resolution To-Do List:

Develop skills to communicate more productively when conflict occurs. Use the following guidelines to foster healthier, more considerate conversations:

  1. Learn how to start up an issue for discussion. Maximize the odds that your partner will hear you.
  2. Acknowledge what your partner is saying. Accept and impart the truthfulness of what you are hearing from your partner.
  3. De-escalate to help keep arguments under control. Use strategies that will keep you and your partner from spiraling down. This promotes relationship awareness and a willingness to keep things reigned in.
  4. Repair relationship damage. It is definitely important to minimize regrettable words and actions in general, but when mistakes are made, it is important to address them immediately. Making amends to your partner is critical.
  5. Negotiate and compromise. Reaching a desired outcome together is vital for the health of the relationship. Sacrifice your individual need to obtain something you value, for something you value more as a couple. Encourage the idea that you can both come out of conflict winners, and retain some of what you both wanted in the resolution.

There are a lot of things that you can do to keep conflict from becoming overwhelming. Too often, arguments are centered on determining who’s right; effectively pulling couples apart. Conflict resolutions skills require time, practice, and the combined effort of both partners, and sometimes, a couples’ therapist. Still, once you learn to resolve conflict, the rewards are well worth the work.

Of course, arguing with your partner is never a fun process, but incorporating these strategies can make conflict and resolution much more satisfying and constructive.



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