When you get into a new relationship there is a period of time that you have to truly get to know each other. You’re still in your honeymoon phase and everything is rosy with unicorns and sunshine… until you have your first fight. What happens now?
First of all, you have to establish if this infraction was a deal-breaker. I won’t tell you what constitutes a deal-breaker, you know yourself best. If you believe your relationship can move past this – how do you do it?
Do you stop talking for a while? Not sleep till you figure it out? (BAD advice, it’s totally acceptable to sleep on things) How you deal with conflict will be instrumental for your relationship dynamics in the present and in the future – so it’s important. Pay attention.
How To Deal With Conflict in Relationships
There are so many ways to deal with conflict and ultimately you have to find what works for both of you. For most of us, we find ourselves retreating back to what we are familiar with. Whether that’s what we saw our parents do or from relationships past – generally not the best solution.
I’ve learned that many of us pick up cues from what we saw growing up. How conflict is displayed and how conflict is resolved for each of us is often rooted in what we saw our parents do.
Did you see healthy arguments growing up? Were people patient, kind, and respectful? Or… did you bear witness to a savage bloodbath of arguments? Perhaps you were someone who never saw their parents argue and therefore tend to avoid conflict entirely?
Most of us will probably find that we didn’t grow up with awesome conflict resolution skills and therefore need to make active decisions on how we change this for our own lives, and for what our future family members will see.
Establishing Conflict Resolution Styles in Relationships
Each relationship needs to figure out what works best for them – early into the relationship. Don’t ignore things that make you angry, don’t allow feelings to fester, and don’t just “give in” unless you want to set that precedent for your relationship. Spoiler alert: you don’t.
I don’t want this advice to be conflated with the idea that every fight is a hill to die on. You should certainly pick and choose your battles and let things go from time to time. But if something is bothering you, find a respectful way to voice those opinions early on.
Pro Tip for Solving Conflict in Relationships
As my husband and I figured out what worked for us, this one rule has changed the way that we fight and it has been the best thing for our relationship.
It’s simple: don’t ever use vague words to describe your emotions.
That’s it. Take “mad” “sad” or “angry” off the table. Expecting your partner to know what you are feeling when you use generic words isn’t fair to your relationship, and won’t help get to the root cause of your issues.
Instead, replace “I’m mad at you” with “It hurt me when you …” or “I’m sad because of you” with “it made me feel unimportant when you xxx”.
Women are notorious for wanting their partners to know what bothers them and having to explain it – makes us so much more mad. “You should know what you did!” – been there, said that. Trust me, I know. But keeping score won’t help either of you in the long term.
Final Thoughts on How To Resolve Conflicts in Relationships
Help your partner out and explain the root cause of the tension by saying things like “It frustrated me the way you..” or “I felt excluded when you…” Most of the time, we just want our feelings validated, and using words like “mad” or “angry” will cause our partner to shut down emotionally and get nowhere.
Remember, the faster your fight is over the sooner you get to cuddle, order takeout, and watch Harry Potter marathons.