Conflict: should the goal be resolution?

Conflict: should the goal be resolution?

Have you ever felt like you and your partner are having the same argument over and over and it never gets resolved? Do you ever think, couldn’t I just phone this one in? Are you worn out from the battles? Perhaps it’s time for a new approach to conflict.

Over 69% of conflicts fall into the “perpetual problem” category, according to relationship and marriage expert Dr. John Gottman. He states, in relationships there are underlying assumptions and differences between the partners, which cannot always be fixed in the moment. It’s true opposites attract, but if not careful, in marriage they will attack.

Therefore, maybe a new approach for conflict is not attempted resolution, but rather conflict management. This means learning how to have meaningful discussions instead of fights.

Suggestions to help manage conflict between you and your partner:

  • Set a time for the discussion when both of you are relaxed and not distracted.
  • Establish an open-ended dialogue. Listen to your partner’s point of view and ask for clarification on anything that is unclear. The goal is to understand his/her perspective.
  • Be specific concerning the subject of the discussion. Avoid bringing up anything that isn’t relevant to this discussion.
  • Avoid the “blame game.” Accept that all human beings are flawed in some way, even you.
  • Take responsibility for your part in the problems. This will help lower your defenses.
  • Don’t bury resentments, which can destroy a relationship. Couples who try to avoid conflict are at risk of developing stagnant relationships, making them vulnerable for divorce.
  • If you find yourself becoming too emotional, take a break to calm down. This will help you avoid saying or doing something you may regret.
  • Look for areas where you agree and ways you are willing to compromise.
  • Remember you are not adversaries, but teammates.

This new conflict approach takes time to master, so be realistic about the change process. A professional counselor can provide the support, tools, and neutral territory you may need to elicit these changes.

Ann Sheerin MA
Asheerin @ GROWcounseling.com

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