Disagreements are an inevitable part of relationships. It is normal and natural to have arguments with your partner, but what matters is how you deal with them. Learning to argue constructively and respectfully is key to ensuring a healthy relationship.
Tips on how to navigate conflict in your relationship
1. Try to remain calm
Arguments can not be resolved when both parties are too angry to think clearly. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize breathing and taking time to calm down. Before handling a conflict, it is okay to ask your partner for a 'cool-off' period. Remove yourself if necessary by going to another room to calm down, going on a walk, or allowing yourself the space to breathe.
2. Maintain a respectful demeanor
Avoid the impulse to become defensive or accusatory. A healthy argument should not involve any personal attacks or character assaults. Instead, start through active listening by reflecting on what your partner is saying and trying hard to understand their words. So often, arguments stem from a place of misunderstanding; it is important to hear your partner’s pain points.
3. Wait for the right time and place
When our partner does something that upsets us, it can be easy at times to let our emotions get the best of us and say things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment. Instead of reacting out of impulse, try asking your partner permission for some time to cool off and think about what you want to say. If you are approaching your partner to bring up a disagreement, it is respectful to ask them when it would be a good time to talk. Then, when it is time to hash out the conflict, consider a private and comfortable place where you will both have enough time to express your feelings openly.
4. Speak in “I” statements
Using statements that start with you, such as "you made me upset" or "you made me angry," comes off as blaming. Using statements like "I am upset" or "I feel hurt when…" allows you to speak in terms of how you feel and leads to a more productive dialogue. It prevents you from coming off accusatory, which will likely lead to your partner being more receptive to what you're telling them.
5. Listen to your partner and ask for clarification
Listen to your partner without interrupting. It is important that they feel heard and understood in the conversation. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification if they say something you don’t understand. It is better to understand rather than make assumptions.
6. Try and find a middle ground
Sometimes relationships require compromise and finding a balance between what both partners want. Try to meet each other halfway and come up with a solution that is fair to you both. If you genuinely care about your partner, the goal of an argument is to deescalate the situation, not point the finger at who is right or wrong. It is okay to agree to disagree.
7. Learn how to say sorry
Saying sorry does not automatically assume responsibility for what happened. Instead, you can apologize that the situation is happening and the other person's feelings are hurt. If you recognize that you've done something that hurt your partner, own up to it and take responsibility. Be sincere and ask for forgiveness.
8. Make a plan for the future
There are many ways to go about problem-solving following a conflict. You can tell them what you'll do differently, ask what they want you to do, or suggest what you want them to do moving forward. For example, let's say an argument breaks out because your partner has been neglecting to take out the trash. You may want to ask questions like, "what can I do to prevent this from happening again?" and make suggestions such as reminding them about the task the night before. Your partner may respond with a plan to be more diligent in completing the task and share what they'd want from you, suggesting something such as, "If I forget in the future, I need you to approach me without yelling, so I don't shut down." No matter what solution you two work out, both partners should be aware of and satisfied with the plan.