Managing vs. Resolving Conflict in Relationships: The Blueprints for Success

conflict in relationships

It is not possible to find harmony in everything, especially when you are in a relationship. Whatever problems arise in a romantic relationship, it’s important to face them together as a couple. Psychologists believe that having conflicts is healthy for all types of relationships only if it can be resolved afterward in a healthy way.

Are you and your partner locking horns more than usual? Maybe, it’s time to consider a few effective blueprints for managing and resolving your conflict in relationships as unresolved conflict can lead to resentment and additional conflicts.

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman’s research proves that 69% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable. These may be things like personality traits your partner has that rub you the wrong way, or long-standing issues around spending and saving money. Their research findings emphasize the idea that couples must learn to manage conflict rather than avoid or attempt to eliminate it.

Trying to solve unsolvable problems is counterproductive, and no couple will ever completely eliminate them. However, discussing them is constructive and provides a positive opportunity for understanding and growth. Let’s look at three “conflict blueprints” to help you and your partner constructively manage conflict around unsolvable problems.

Conflict Blueprint 1: Current Conflicts

Conflict in relationships

This blueprint addresses current conflicts. Based on game theory, a mathematical model that describes how to manage conflict and improve cooperation with others, this blueprint stresses that both partners put off persuasion tactics until each one can state their position clearly and fully. This involves each speaker and listener taking turns.

Both partners must be emotionally calm when speaking. The listener should take notes on what the speaker says. The speaker should focus on using a softened start-up, stating feelings by using “I” statements, and asking for needs to be met in a positive and respectful way.

Tips to effectively navigate Blueprint 1:

1. Take a 15 to a 20-minute break if things get too heated, and do something soothing and distracting that will help you calm down. When you return to talk, only one person should “have the floor” to talk while the other partner listens. No interruptions!

2. Begin the conversation with a soft or curious tone. Use an “I” statement and express something you need. For example, “Could I ask you something? I felt embarrassed when you spoke down to me in front of our friends. Could you please be aware of that in the future?”

3. Use repair attempts. Say key phrases to help your partner see that you are trying to understand and deescalate the conflict. For example, you can apologize, use humor appropriately, say “I hear you” or “I understand” and so on. Body language is important, too. Nod your head, make eye contact, and even offer a physical gesture of affection.

Read The ABCs of Escalating Conflict and 7 Tips To Prevent Them


Conflict Blueprint 2: Attachment Injuries

Conflict in relationships

This blueprint focuses on discussing past emotional injuries, often known as triggers, that occurred prior to or during the relationship. Also called attachment injuries” by Dr. Sue Johnson, these can create resentment from past events that have gone unresolved. These frequently involve breaches of trust.

It is crucial to avoid being negative when discussing triggers. You both need to speak calmly and understand that both of your viewpoints are valid, even if you disagree. The goals are to gain comprehension of each other’s perspectives and to acknowledge that regrettable incidents are inevitable in long-term relationships.

There are five primary components to a discussion about an emotional injury. A couple should focus on describing how they feel, expressing their individual personal realities, exploring any underlying triggers, taking responsibility and apologizing, and forming productive plans for healing.

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