How to resolve conflict in a relationship
Whether or not we want it to be, conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship. Depending on how we interact with friends, family and romantic partners, our closeness with the people in our lives means that tension will occasionally occur — and as tension occurs, so will disagreements and misunderstandings.
But it’s how we deal with conflict, rather than conflict itself, that sets apart healthy relationships from potentially unhealthy ones.
Today’s Am I The Bleep?! blog is all about conflict. We’re going to look at a few strategies to deal with conflict, as well as techniques for having better conflict resolution when relationship problems do occur.
Episode: AITA for kicking a girl out of my party for calling her boyfriend “daddy?”
It's not every day that there are 2 Jonathans slammed together in one room with the sole goal,
of calling people a**holes.
But if that's your cup of tea,
then a quiet space to listen to the show is where you'll want to be.
In today's episode, we cover the following post:
- AITA for kicking a girl out of my party for calling her boyfriend “daddy?”
- AITA for telling my girlfriend I’m not her maid in public?
- AITA for making my younger sister watch my baby?
Tips for how to resolve conflict in a relationship
Don’t fight in public
Fighting in public can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to conflict resolution. Not only can it escalate the situation and make things more difficult to resolve, but it can also be uncomfortable and embarrassing for you and others.
We recently read posts from two anonymous users who fought in public. The first user got into a fight with her friend after that friend kept calling her boyfriend an awkward pet name at a party, while the second got into a fight with his girlfriend after she made a joke at his expense in public.
As you can probably guess, neither of these users resolved these conflicts peacefully. Instead, things blew up, got out of control and led to a lot of hurt and pain — not least of which because the people involved felt attacked and embarrassed at engaging in a fight in public.
Public fights are hurtful in a lot of ways. They put people on the defensive, cause heightened anxiety, lead to social shaming and don’t allow us to do what conflict should do: lead to a resolution. The next time you’re at odds with how someone’s behaving, ask if they can talk in private to discuss what’s on your mind.
Establish expectations early on
Setting expectations before relationship conflicts arise can work wonders in preventing misunderstandings and disagreements. Not only is it a proactive way to establish a strong foundation for your relationship by discussing and agreeing on things like communication and respect, but it can also help you navigate tensions when they inevitably occur.
During our podcast episode, we heard from a pair of siblings who lived together. The older sibling was a full-time worker with a one year old child, while the younger sibling was an eighteen year old college student attending university while staying at her big sister’s house.
One morning, the older sister got called into work, and asked her sibling to watch her child — she figured it was a simple request, considering she was supporting her younger sister financially, and hadn’t asked her to babysit before.
Unfortunately, the younger sister refused, citing how she only had one weekend off of school, and wanted to use it. The older sister was upset, and told her sibling if she didn’t like the arrangement, she could “move back home with their parents.”
This situation is a perfect example of why it’s important to establish relationship agreements early on. If the older sister had simply communicated what she expected of her sibling (“You can live here for free if you don’t mind occasionally watching my baby”), it would’ve been smooth sailing.
Similarly, if the younger sister established her expectations (“I can be free for you to watch your child when I’m not busy, but it’s not always going to be a guarantee”) then the older sister wouldn’t have felt so shocked when her sibling said no.
Don’t use others to handle your fights for you
Using others to handle conflicts for you might seem like an easy way out, but it can lead to even more miscommunication and pain. Worse, involving others can cause the original conflict to spiral out of control, leading to unintended consequences for everyone involved.
In the same example as before, after the siblings got into it with each other, the younger sister called up their parents and told them everything. The parents yelled at the older sister and told her not to abuse the nature of their relationship…
…which, as you can guess, didn’t really work out for anyone. All it did was muddy the waters and make the conflict even harder to resolve.
This is why it's important to handle your conflicts directly with the person you're in conflict with: because it ensures that the two of you can discuss your issues openly and honestly, and work toward finding a resolution that helps everyone involved.
(Of course, this doesn’t apply to situations where you’re unsafe or unable to have healthy conflict with someone. In those instances, please reach out to a therapist, coach or another appropriate professional.)
Learn how to resolve relationship conflict
Getting into conflicts is natural. Learning how to deal with those conflicts, however, is what separates healthy adult relationships from toxic relationships full of senseless fighting.
If you found what you were looking for in this blog, great — but don’t head out just yet! Take a listen to our latest episode of Am I The Bleep?! to get more advice on conflict resolution, or check out our blog directory for more resources.