Updated: May 21, 2020
Conflict in relationships
Arguments and minor conflicts are common, and important, in all relationships including friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships and professional relationships. Without conflict problems may not get resolved, needs may not be met and one or both parties may experience building resentment. There is not a certain number or arguments that are appropriate, although you may find that you argue most frequently with those you spend the most time with or care for most.
Some types of conflict are never appropriate and these include abusive or violent conflict, conflict that feels continuous and conflict that is experienced as highly distressing or traumatic. Careful consideration and support should also be taken when other people are involved, such as conflict in front of, or with children.
If you are in a relationship with high levels of conflict then try the following strategies to improve the relationship. Ideally, both parties should consider these strategies together, decide which are most appropriate to them as a couple and practice implementing them together. However, if this is not possible because, for example, the relationship is with a superior at work then these strategies may also have some influence when used by you alone.
Remain assertive without being aggressive; speak calmly, keep eye contact and stick to the facts
Consider the other persons point of view. There is rarely one truth and all sides of a story will have validity
Empathise with the other person’s position and validate how they are feeling. You can validate without agreeing, for example by saying ‘I understand that you feel angry towards me and I still plan to meet my friends this evening’
Start all statements with ‘I…’ rather than ‘You…’ for example, ‘I feel angry when…’ is generally better received than ‘You are making me angry’
Communicate frequently to build trust. A lack of trust in a relationship can lead to conflict. Be honest about your feelings, activities and intentions and be clear that you expect the other person to do the same
Stay mindful of your own actions and emotions. In arguments, we often loose ourselves to our emotional minds and regret this later. If your emotions are increasing to the point of you struggling to control what you say or do, then stop the discussion and resume it when you are calmer
Don’t bring up old arguments or hurts. If something isn’t resolved then the time to bring it up is not when having a new argument. Save ongoing problems for when all concerned parties are calm
Seeking help for relationship conflict
If you have been experiencing conflict in your relationship over the long-term and both parties are interested and invested in resolving this, then it may be beneficial to seek professional support, such as individual or couples therapy. If you feel it would be helpful to seek support and your partner does not, then therapy may still be helpful for you personally. At Maromika, we are skilled at helping you navigate difficult relationships, or supporting you to make change if that is needed. Contact us to discuss your needs and get started with getting back on track.