Resolving Conflicts In Relationships


Focus on communicating well with everyone, not just your romantic partner.

"Conflict resolution skills are indispensable for handling all kinds of marital, family, and life issues, whether large or small. And these skills can easily be learned through a Relationship Educator, along with other vital social and intimacy skills for healthy relationships." -Ange Fonce

Healthy relationships are important for everyone as they shape many areas of life, and provide many benefits including:

  • Living longer and having fewer physical health problems
  • Having fewer depressive symptoms
  • Lowered levels of domestic and sexual abuse/violence amongst men and women
  • Less likelihood of youth becoming involved in crime, substance abuse, and/or teen pregnancies

Compromise within the context of relationships is troublesome because it implies that someone is giving something up.

Cooperation on the other hand, strengthens the underlying fabric of relationship through balanced interchange, open communication and mutual understanding.

Here are some tips, tools, and takeaways to help prompt the process.

The very first thing that you bring to the table of the relationship is yourself, and along with that comes your personality. With your personality in play, you tend to protect your own interests, often forestalling those of your partner. This is not out of some misguided bit of narcissism, as it might first appear. Rather, your fundamental survival instinct keeps you bound to your self interest, and appropriately so.

The bent toward narcissism comes out of the interjection of socialization, acculturation, ethnic trajectory and a host of other factors. This transforms what is a natural and somewhat predictable tendency into something a bit more toxic.

Say the Words and Ask the Question

One of the keys to developing a cooperative relationship is communication.

We always hear about how the lack of communication in relationship makes for difficult going, and there is more than enough information fostering advice about how to better communicate.

What we tend not to look at is why that communication falters in the first place. It falters, in part, because you tell yourself stories based on your assumptions, expectations, and ideas about the way the world works. These assumptions, expectations and ideas form your model of the world. That model gives you your own unique, and not unpredictably selfish, perspective.

This perspective is selfishness in its purest form; it stifles your ability to see things from another person's point of view, and almost demands the imposition of behaviors that can become so toxic. Making clear, authentic statements about how you feel, what you're thinking, or what you think you heard someone else say can help you get in front of that self-defeating storytelling. The same can be said for asking clear, authentic questions. If you know, you do not have to guess and you can more easily avoid the needless creation of chaos, internal or external.

Assumption is the one of the main killers of relationships!


If you're prepared to say the words and ask the questions, you also need to be prepared to answer them. Cooperation conveys a level playing field, and that means no hidden agendas, no little deceptions, no little white lies, and no sins of omission. Clarity is crucial because even the most subtle shift can quickly turn a playing field into a battlefield.

Taking The Other Person's Perspective

Stepping away from your model of the world allows you to take your defences out of play. This transforms your interactions into transactions, bringing you to a place where both partners are involved in the give and take. Taking another person's perspective also deflects many issues around power and control, which are often central to the kind of competitive relationship prompted by compromise and fostered by a lack of cooperation.


Another of the less than desirable elements associated with compromise is putting up with your partner's foibles and fragility. On the one hand, that's simple compassion, or holding space. But letting things go in alleged service of maintaining the fabric of relationship often points more toward a distortion of yourself than to healthy self-care. It's important to stay clear on what you can accept, and remain firm on what you cannot.

This goes back to saying the words, asking the questions, and being transparent in doing so.

Your Best Life Partner Is Your Best Friend

Your partnerships should be based, first and foremost, upon a friendship, and that friendship should be a best friendship, one that strives to be deep and abiding, resting upon transparency, trust, and the type of intimacy that makes communication, both verbal and non-verbal, seamless. For that level of intimacy to be present, the friendship that underlies the partnership needs to be well-founded and well-grounded. For the first to effectively support the second, a partnership needs to be approached as something organic that grows out of friendship, rather than something apart from it. 

You strive to survive, but playing "one-up" or "one-down" in your partnerships derails the very thing that is supposed to be feeding and supporting you. Making an agreement to cooperate with your partner, rather than compromise or compete, can lead you to a whole new level of connection and communication. Relationships are about teamwork where both work for a win-win, not where one wins and the other loses. That attitude serves no one, and in the end will destroy a relationship. But there's another very important part of relationships to consider, especially when you're a parent!

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.