5 Steps to Resolving Conflict in a Relationship

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In relationships, it can sometimes feel like navigating the stormy seas of conflicts is like steering a ship through a tempest — challenging, but not impossible. Sure – tension and conflict are normal parts of every bonded connection. But learning how to resolve conflict in a relationship will improve your life more than just about any other skill you will ever learn. 

Why Most Conflicts and Arguments Start

A lot of the misunderstandings and suffering in relationships are based on philosophical arguments.

So often, with your partner, you begin a conversation innocently enough. Then, without even meaning to, you hit on some kind of controversial topic, and suddenly you are in a full-fledged argument. Frequently, these conflicts end in confusion, anger, resentment and even crying.

Since relationship happiness is made up of the day-to-day, having these kinds of challenging interactions – and especially if you have them a lot – can be really damaging to your relationship.

Take your conflicts seriously – and learn how to have them well. It’s not realistic to say, “we’ll never argue again” because you usually end up falling organically into these arguments.

Man and woman trying to resolve a conflict in their relationship

How Different Genders Argue Differently

To get a better understanding of what usually goes wrong, first you have to be aware that there is a strong gender divergence between how different genders approach these differences of opinion. So, if you are in a heterosexual couple, this can be a root problem.

Usually, when men approach a potential conflict topic with other men, they are more likely to disconnect emotionally from it and think of it as a game they are trying to win. Like chess or a video game, they are simply trying to take down their opponent’s ideas any way they can. If their opponent’s idea stands up to the challenge, they may end up taking them seriously. So a man might hear the other person’s point, then say, “That’s ridiculous, have you even looked at the statics?”

Usually, when women approach a sensitive topic with other women, they are more relationally oriented. They will first attempt to find common ground, then make their point. Even if they don’t agree, they might still say something like, “Yes, that makes sense – but have you heard about the recent study on…?”

Triggering Emotional Conflict

In gendered conflicts, men usually think women are being ridiculous and overly sensitive, while women often feel like men are being disconnected jerks. In other words – there is a huge lack of empathy towards the other person’s needs and experiences, and a lot of judgement.

Sometimes, it can even be fun to argue about something – if you can keep your emotions separate and you don’t feel like the argument will lead to unfixable disconnection. It can be exciting to bring up really good points, and even change your partner’s mind.

Unfortunately, this frequently isn’t possible since it’s actually quite rare for both people in a conflict to be able to stay detached. We are emotional creatures, after all. So even if we are not particularly affected by a topic, we might respond to our partners if we see them getting upset, tense, sad, or angry. Also, certain arguments can touch on some deep emotional needs and be very triggering.

For example, many people have wounds around their intelligence, their need to be listened to, or feelings of abandonment. Any of these can be triggered in a heated argument. You might feel like your partner is talking down to you, or treating you like you are ignorant. You might feel like you are not being heard. Or like your partner cares more about the topic at hand than about being in connection with you, so you feel abandoned.

It can be unbearable to feel inferior, unheard, and disconnected from the person you love – and so often, relationship conflicts can become intimacy killers.

Lesbian couple in intimacy conflict

Use These 5 Steps to Help Resolve Your Relationship Conflicts

To have more unity and harmony in your relationship, use the following tools with an agreed- upon framework.

1. Acknowledge You Are In A Conflict

If you start to get into an argument by accident, acknowledge that you are in one and reassure your partner that you still want to stay connected. “Oops, it looks like we are having a difference of opinion about public vs. private schools here. I really want to stay connected with you in this conversation though, and talk it through.”

If your partner’s love language is touch, see if you can keep some kind of physical contact, or at least make sure you are looking in each other’s eyes during the conversation.

2. See If It’s Personal

Check if there are underlying personal feelings the conflict topic is touching on. You might have skipped over these if you just stay in argument mode. This requires you to be honest with yourself and vulnerable with your partner. “I realize that when we talk about whether or not porn promotes violence against women, it is really hard for me to separate from the feelings of insecurity I experience when I think about you watching porn.”

3. Listen to Your Partner

Make sure you take the time to really listen and take seriously what your partner is saying. You can even repeat it back to them if you are not sure you are not fully understanding what they mean. Even if you don’t agree, see if you can have empathy for their point of view and how and why they might have come to it. Check in on your own personal histories and how they relate to your current opinions on the topic.

4. Focus on Both Similarities and Differences

If your partner says something you really agree with, share that with them. Arguments often turn into an emphasis on the differences – but it’s always possible there are also places of overlap and agreement.

5. Be Willing to Change Your Mind

If you go into a conflict without being open to new ideas and embracing ways of seeing them it is unlikely your partner will ever be willing to hear you either.

Let got of being “right” or making the other person “wrong”. Instead, go with an attitude of collaboration and curiosity. Try thinking “what might I be able to learn from this person that I don’t already know?” Being open to learning, growing, and changing is what keeps us all young and vital.

Relationship coach helping couple to resolve a relationship conflict

How A Relationship Coach Can Help With Resolving Conflict

Sometimes, it’s better to consult a professional before conflicts become unsolvable issues, leading to festering resentment, sexless relationships and even worse, an irrevocable break up. A relationship coach can play a pivotal role in helping you navigate and resolve conflicts by offering a neutral, supportive space where both partners feel heard and understood.

Through tailored communication strategies and relationship repair techniques, your coach can guide you in identifying the root causes of your conflicts, recognizing each other’s perspectives, and fostering empathy.

This process not only helps resolve the immediate conflict but also strengthens your relationship skills, leading to more constructive interactions and a deeper connection in the future.

Find your perfect relationship coach here.

Find a professional sex coach near you or by expertise now.

Danielle Harel
Danielle Harelhttps://www.somaticainstitute.com/faculty/danielle-harel/
Dr. Danielle Harel is the the co-creator of the Somatica® Method and the co-founder of the Somatica® Institute. She has a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality (DHS), a graduate degree in Clinical Social Work (MSW), and a Bachelors (BA) degree in Psychology and Educational Counseling.

As a somatic sexologist, professor, and author, Danielle has devoted the last 20 years to resolving her client’s sexual challenges, training sex & relationship coaches, and empowering people. Harnessing her extensive training in sexology, psychology, and body-based modalities like Hakomi, attachment theory, character theory, and neuro-patterning, she guides people in reaching their fullest personal, professional, and sexual potential.

In addition to being faculty at Esalen and teaching the Advanced Somatica Training and Mastery Classes, Danielle has most recently embraced the adventure of co-producing the TV series Here She Comes – an episodic based on the Somatica Method (currently in production).

Before that, she published original research on Orgasmic Birth, and co-authored 3 books with Celeste Hirschman: Cockfidence, Making Love Real, and Coming Together.

She has also written extensively on sex, relationships, and dating, and is frequently quoted as an expert resource in publications.

To everything she does, Danielle brings her unparalleled passion, depth, intuition, and magnetizing personality.

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