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How to Handle Conflict in a Relationship

Aug 18, 2007
Relationships are great as long as everything is going well. Unless you have some kind of unique partnership however, you will almost certainly find that at some point you will be in a conflict situation with your partner. Often this conflict is over something that's trivial in the 'big picture' of life, but because it is usually unexpected, it's a big enough issue to threaten the stability of the relationship.

Consequently, one of the relationship skills that all couples should learn is how to handle any conflict before it arises. Once the problem occurs, it's going to be diffused much quicker and without loss of respect if you have a problem-solving mechanism already in place.

Conflict is created when both you and your partner hold a different opinion. It could be something as small as where you should go for your date night or as important as whether or not you want to start a family. The mechanism that you create for handling conflict however should work for any scenario.

The first thing that you both need to do is to realize that there is a conflict! It's not just one person being awkward or wanting their own way. It's not about control. It's about one person thinking in an entirely different way to the other. So stop arguing your case for a moment and think about what the other person is saying. Both of you!

If you are both passionate people, it could be that conflict can't be handled verbally because neither of you can respect the other's right to voice their opinion without interrupting! If this is the case, instead of talking through the next step - write it down instead!

Choose who goes first and one of you speak quietly and without anger or resentment about why you believe your choice is right for you both. Once you have given your reasons, it's time for your partner to speak. Give them the same respect, and listen to what they have to say.

Next decide whether this really is a thing that needs both of you to agree on - there are many things within a relationship where complete agreement is not required, such as voting in an election, all that's needed is a mutual respect in the other's right to hold an opinion different to your own. If this is the case with your conflict, then just agree to disagree and then kiss and make up!

If however this is a more major issue, such as the starting a family situation, then both of you need to come to an agreement on the issue that both of you are happy to live with. Take one list at a time and talk though the objections. Cross off any that are not really important, or can be negotiated, so that you are left with two opposing views on an issue that's important to your relationship.

Next ask yourselves, is this an issue that is worth risking the relationship over? Is it more important than being with your partner? If it's not, then you both need to seriously think about your situation and where you can reach a compromise that you can live with. If it is, then you need to consider whether or not you'll ready to dissolve the relationship on this issue at this time, or whether you want to shelve it for now, and see what the future holds. Stalling the issue isn't going to make it disappear, but when it next appears you may both be in a different place emotionally and might find it easier to make a joint decision.

Conflict can turn the happiest of relationships into a war zone. What you must remember is that respect is one of the foundation stones in a relationship. You shouldn't sacrifice your own integrity to please your partner by agreeing with them, nor should they do that with you, but you should both respect that each of you holds a valid opinion that you believe in, and to successfully combat the conflict, you must both listen to what the other says and see where the joint area lies - it's this shared opinion on the issue that with a little flexibility on both sides will help you build up to a mutually acceptable solution.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs a site called along with info on dating and relationship on her blog at at http://www.Hot-Firefighters.com/blog2
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