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How to Resolve Conflicts
by Demian
© 2003, Demian

Every couple experiences conflict. One thing that distinguishes a successful relationship is how well those conflicts are resolved. Agreeing to some ground rules can help ensure a fair and productive fight. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Commit to resolution. Stay with the conflict until it is resolved. It is easy to tell when resolution has been reached — you’ll feel closer and want to give your partner a hug.
  • Agree to absolutely no abuse. To create a setting of trust and safety, rule out physical, verbal, or psychological attacks. No hitting, no name calling, no threats or guilt-tripping. No exceptions.
  • Achieve equality in the conflict. If one of you is compliant just to end the argument, it usually won’t be resolved. Sometimes couples behave like parent and child when one gets angry. This imbalance makes resolution impossible.
  • Solve one problem at a time. Address one particular item. Avoid old arguments. Ill feelings brought up days, weeks, or months later could be experienced by your partner as stored weapons.
  • Ask for a change. Don’t just complain.
  • Let your partner speak her or his own mind. Don’t presume your partner’s feelings or likely reactions.
  • Ask for feedback and listen to it. Interrupters prove they are not listening.
  • Take short time-outs if the fight is especially intense or frightening. After breaking, always come back to the conflict.
  • Ask for reassurance, particularly when feeling insecure. It is O.K. to ask if you are still loved. Knowing one is loved provides safety for conflict resolution.
  • Assume you both are right. Conflict is not a matter of right and wrong. You are both on the same team.
Conflict reflects a relationship problem, not a character flaw. When you both own the problem, you can achieve a satisfying compromise. No one “wins.” Either both gain intimacy, or both lose it.

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