6 Tips for Managing Couples Conflict

May 6, 2014
  1. Agree to disagree. In our Western, individualistic culture, we tend to believe that there is a dichotomy when it comes to arguments — ‘one person is right and the other is wrong’. We hardly ever agree to disagree, and maybe that’s just what we’re missing. If it looks as though you and your partner aren’t getting anywhere by arguing, then let it go. Two people can’t agree on everything! All couples argue. Successful ones simply learn to communicate their disagreements respectfully and successfully.

  2. Compromise, compromise, compromise! If you want to listen to classical music in the car and your partner wants to listen to rock, compromise by finding something you both want to listen to, or listen to rock for a portion of the time and classical for another portion. Coming to a compromise keeps both of you happy, because face it, you can’t always get your way (nor should you), and neither should your partner (not always anyway).

  3. Find out what’s really bothering you. Are you really mad that your partner didn’t take the trash out? Or are you upset that he/she doesn’t notice the amount of housework that you already put in? Instead of getting upset over the trash, try to talk about what’s really making you feel this way. Arguing over topics such as the trash, are usually cover ups for other things that should be talked about.

  4. Resolve conflicts when you’re BOTH calm. Arguing when one or both of you are angry/upset will more than likely get you nowhere because you’re letting your emotions take control instead of thinking logically about the situation. If your partner is yelling or cursing, kindly tell him/her you’ll be ready to talk when he/she has calmed down, and walk away. This gives you time to calm down as well and to think about the situation more clearly. This may make him/her even more upset, but the argument won’t get solved otherwise.

  5. Listen without interruption. Listening to your partner during conflict shows him/her respect and will make it more likely that you get the same respect when you speak. Interruption is not a good form of communication, it lacks respect and makes it that much harder to solve the issue(s) at hand. So try to get through arguments with active listening (nodding your head, maintaining eye contact, paraphrasing your partner), and avoid interruption at all costs.

  6. Avoid John Gottman’s 4 horsemen of the apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Criticism is definitely something you want to avoid (you ALWAYS do this/you NEVER do that, etc.). Contempt is another big one you should avoid, and it includes things like name calling, sarcasm, and negative body language (rolling eyes). Then there is defensiveness, which gets you nowhere and includes things like, making excuses, ignoring what your partner is saying, and whining. And last, but certainly not least, stonewalling. This is when you or your partner leaves to avoid conflict. This is different from walking away from your partner who isn’t calm because with stonewalling you don’t tell your partner "we’ll talk when you calm down", it’s just walking away to avoid it, changing the subject, giving the silent treatment. To learn more about the 4 horsemen see: http://www.azgrowth.com/4Horsemen.pdf

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