Conflict is a sign your relationship needs to grow.
Conflict is not inherently bad (or good), and neither is anger. Conflict is a necessary part of any relationship, and can move a relationship out of a stagnant state. It’s healthy when it helps people see their own strengths and weaknesses, and all couples experience conflict at one time or another.
But conflict is unhealthy when it’s the prevailing state, defining the relationship with a chaotic, loud, and tense energy. A basic ground of peace is necessary for any relationship to thrive and endure. If you are experiencing ongoing conflict in your relationship, read these 7 tips for help.
1. Give up your need to be right
The need to win every argument, every point, indicates emotional immaturity. If you really care about someone you don’t want him or her to feel patronized, belittled, or manipulated—which is what happens when you fight your partner to validate your ego at every possible opportunity. And if you and your partner are constantly butting heads, and you didn’t use to, it’s a sign of deeper trouble in the relationship.
Relationships thrive when both people decide to bravely work through conflict together rather than retreat into battle positions and fight until the actual problem is forgotten and exhaustion sets in. Even if you know you’re right, about whatever seems so important in that moment, is proving it worth making the most important person in your life feel stupid?
2. Don’t use passive-aggressive silent treatment
Not speaking to your partner when you’re angry with him or her is a no-win communication strategy, but many people do it. It builds resentment between you and your partner and prolongs an argument. Despite leaps forward with Artificial Intelligence, we still can’t read each other’s minds, so glaring at your significant other and expecting them to know why you’re so angry is not going to work. It will just make them feel punished, confused, or even angrier than you are.
To resolve a strong conflict, you have to have some faith in the other person—if you tell them honestly what’s bothering you, will they listen or close you out? Set rules to fight fair, early in the relationship: no silent treatment, listen without judging, don’t go to bed angry.
3. Choose your words
Your words start as thoughts, then turn into actions (which turn into habits, and character). When you constantly tear down your partner with mean words, patronising tones, or ugly curses, you’re building your character, and it’s not pretty. Choose the words you speak with care, and pause to breathe in the middle of an argument. Besides dampening the potential in a relationship, constantly shooting out negative words like arrows will make your own life less interesting, less happy. Choosing words out of love and respect actually builds good karma, and it builds up the relationship. You’ll hear more kind words in return, too.
4. Slow down your discussion
One of the strategies I’m often getting couples to do in my therapy room is to slow down. When you’re triggered and feeling frustrated and angry in a conflict, it’s hard to keep track of what’s being said because the discussion moves so quickly. Slow down the process so you can listen carefully to what your partner is saying without reacting quickly. Take time to reflect before you respond. Just this simple strategy can completely change the conversation and de-escalate the rising tensions.
5. Let go of your hang-ups, let go of the past
Holding onto past hurts—from conflicts, perceived slights, a bad night’s sleep, anything—increases their power over you. Don’t keep a tally of who wins what argument in the relationship; it’s juvenile and pointless. Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past. Bring your attention to this moment, to where the relationship is right now, free from the baggage of your last fight. That’s the only way to move the relationship forward with dignity and new energy.
6. Repair quickly to get back on track
After a fight, whether it’s mild or a category 5 cyclone, work to repair your relationship quickly. This includes making a sincere apology, if you need to take responsibility for causing your partner hurt. Maybe you and your partner couldn’t resolve the conflict before you went to sleep, and you slept in separate beds because of this. First thing in the morning, sit down and talk. Don’t go off to work still mad at each other. Lingering discord will affect both your days and the relationship will have one wheel off the track. Forgiveness gets easier every time you do it. The best couples seek to resolve hurts and conflict quickly, so they can get back on track and feel united.
7. Take care of your self
You can’t care for a relationship properly if you’re not caring for your self too. Sleeping well, exercising, spending time breathing deeply in a quiet room: all of these acts of self-care will build up your physical and emotional health. They clear your head and lower your blood pressure. And they calm wild emotions, as from conflict in your relationship.