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Tips for Healthy Conflict Resolution in a Relationship4 minute read • Feb. 1, 2021
All couples argue from time to time. Occasional disagreements are normal in a relationship. But arguments that happen frequently or escalate quickly can cause lasting conflict in a relationship.
You can de-escalate arguments by paying attention to your emotions and making a commitment to understand your partner’s point of view. Conflict resolution is important to the longevity and health of your relationship.
Tune into your feelings
A conversation can turn into an argument when one or both partners feel misunderstood or defensive. Be aware of how you’re feeling. That will help you keep emotions in check, so you can keep the conversation productive and on target.
- Truly listen to what your partner is saying. Show them you are actively listening by nodding or asking questions. They will appreciate that their concerns are being heard and validated.
- Recognize when you start to feel defensive. Take a breath, acknowledge you feel this way and ask yourself if there is a valid reason to feel defensive.
- Be open and objective. Ask yourself if you said or did something that may have caused your partner to feel the way they do. If you aren’t sure what you did, calmly ask your partner to help you better understand.
- Pay attention to your body language. Crossed arms and tightly pursed lips convey defensiveness. Instead, relax your face and look your partner in the eye.
- Focus on the issue at hand. Avoid bringing up other complaints and be careful not to attack your partner’s character. Otherwise, your partner may become defensive, which could escalate the situation and make it difficult to move forward in your conversation.
Recognize when it’s time for a reset
It can help to take a timeout from a conversation that goes nowhere or threatens to turn into an argument. When that happens, try doing the following:
- Think before you speak. Be careful not to say the first thing that pops into your head. It’s common when annoyed or defensive to say things in the heat of the moment that you later regret. So, try to collect your thoughts before you speak.
- Take a break. If you are about to lose your temper, remove yourself from the conversation. Raising your voice, cursing and becoming physical are all signs that you need a break.
- Do something to cool down. Talk a walk, go for a run or do another physical activity to get rid of pent-up anger or frustration. Deep-breathing exercises can also help restore calm.
- Return to your conversation. Start fresh after taking a break.
Agree to fight fair
Disagreements are a fact of life, so it makes sense to anticipate them and set some basic rules for when they occur.
- Be aware of the issues that trigger arguments. Some common relationship challenges center around money, children and trust. Military couples have additional stressors, including frequent moves and deployments. When one of these issues comes up, give yourselves an extra reminder that it’s important to address it calmly and openly.
- Set basic ground rules. Agree with your partner that you will hear each other out, avoid jumping to conclusions, focus on the issue at hand and not bring up past complaints about each other.
- Take a timeout if either of you break a rule. This will help keep the conversation calm and productive, allowing you to come to a resolution.
- Seek outside help if necessary. Recognize when you and your partner might benefit from the help of a skilled professional. Service members and their partners are eligible for free and confidential non-medical counseling. You can connect with a non-medical counselor through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center or by calling 800-342-9647. OCONUS? Use these international calling options or live chat.
Check out the other tools and support that Military OneSource offers for all stages of your relationship.