What Can I Do to Help Resolve Conflict with My Partner?
Updated: Mar 5
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
Relationships are difficult. Conflict is bound to come up at some point, whether you are at the start of a relationship and learning what makes the other person tick, you've been in it for some time now and are navigating day to day stressors, or you are in a long term relationship and dealing with major life decisions that will impact your future together.
Regardless of what stage of relationship you are in, the tips below may be able to shed light on some ways you can be your best self and do what you can to resolve disputes, maintain a healthy relationship, and continue to move forward together.
1. Take responsibility
We all have a role to play in conflict.
One thing we may need to take a hard look at is how our past relationship history could be impacting how we respond and relate to our current partner.
For example, there might be certain patterns you notice regarding what upsets or triggers you in disagreements. Talk with your partner about these triggers if you are comfortable sharing them as this may allow your loved one to be more mindful of these factors during arguments.
You can also use your awareness of your triggers and feelings as a signal that you may need to take a moment to calm yourself or relax before continuing with a difficult conversation so that you are in a better head space.
You may observe yourself shut down emotionally, react angrily, or have difficulty opening up and want to work on these pieces as well.
Perhaps you might feel that your relationship expectations are somewhat unrealistic. Or you notice you are anxious about your relationship status and feel that you ask too much of your partner because of your insecurities.
These realizations can be hard to come to terms with and make you feel vulnerable although it’s important to not shy away from them as this is all part of figuring out what may need to be addressed.
Taking a step back to reflect on how you feel you could be contributing to the relationship issues you are dealing with can allow you to explore what changes you can make to help maintain and improve your relationship.
2. Focus on your feelings and needs
In the middle of a disagreement, you may be so focused on the other person and how upset you are that it is hard for to you actually direct your attention towards your own feelings and needs.
Rather than getting caught up on what your partner is or isn’t doing, how about expressing how you feel about what has happened? Or about what you believe you need in the relationship to feel supported and appreciated?
Speaking from this lens may facilitate a more open conversation.
3. Avoid mind reading or assumptions
We often guess what our partner is thinking or feeling. However, this thinking trap can cause more stress in the relationship as we don’t know if it’s actually true unless we ask the other person.
Rather than making assumptions and experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that may come with it, try asking your loved one about how they have experienced the issue and what their perspective is on it.
4. Ask questions to gain a better understanding
Show that you are open to hearing their point of view by asking them questions like:
“How are you feeling?”
“What is upsetting you right now?”
“How can I better support you?”
“What do you need to feel more comfortable opening up to me?”
These are just a few examples - you can ask other types of questions in your own words that convey your interest in hearing what they have to say.
5. Work together as a team
Building unity and cohesion in your relationship is a wonderful way to help you move forward together.
While you are entitled to have your own feelings and thoughts, you will also want to find a way to ensure you are both working together rather than being torn apart by misunderstandings and by standing on opposite sides of the fence.
Perhaps you can consider how to handle issues in a proactive way. Maybe you both can agree to take breaks when things get heated, stay respectful in your language towards each other, try to reflect what the other person is saying to clarify you are hearing them right, and other ways of working together through a problem. This can go a long way towards helping you stay connected and building your confidence in navigating hard conversations.
6. Explore individual and relationship goals
Set goals about what you both want individually and in the relationship to help propel you in a positive direction.
Some questions to consider in identifying your goals could be:
Do we need more quality time together? What activities can we do that we both enjoy?
Do I need more alone time for my own personal pursuits and social/recreational opportunities (so that I can return to the relationship feeling more energized)?
Does there need to be a more equitable division of tasks in terms of the home and child care (if relevant) and, if so, who can take on what?
Might there need to be a visual schedule posted in a central place so that we can plan out our weekly appointments/meetings as well as personal commitments and relationship time?
Think about what is important to you as an individual and as a couple and define them clearly so that you can make a plan that will solidify your connection and improve your relationship satisfaction.
7. Imagine what your future together looks like
Where do you see yourselves in a year? 5 years? 10 years? Think about your housing situation, career, family life, location, and anything else that stands out to you. Making a concrete plan for your future helps you approach your current relationship issues more confidently and gives you hope for what you can look forward to down the road.
It can be hard to think so far ahead but doing this will allow you to align your decisions with how you spend your time, the boundaries you create to protect your energy, and how you track your progress towards your individual and relationship goals.
Consider how you can support each other as you move towards your future lives together. This can be a helpful reminder for you of why you are in a relationship and why you continue to stay together through the normal ups and downs of daily life.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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