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Managing conflict... there is a better way


Conflict and relationships often go hand in hand. Whether the relationship is a parent with their children, brothers and sisters, a couple in a life partnership or in marriage. 


Inherent in all relationships, is the inevitable difference of opinion, which, when handled poorly, frequently leads to conflict.


Whilst the occurrence of conflict is quite normal between all couples, managing the conflict in a healthy manner is often highly unpredictable. 



Some couples find a way to achieve respectful, even novel, solutions to their problems. For others the fighting escalates and threatens to cause the collapse of the marriage. 
Couples who have developed a relationship based on poor communication are more likely to develop dysfunctional conflict resolution methods.This is often characterized by

  • shouting,
  • avoidance,
  • name-calling,
  • excessive alcohol use,
  • blaming,
  • taking too much responsibility. 


Elements of this behaviour may occasionally occur in couples with better conflict management skills, however, it is when these behaviours become the normal manner for dealing with matters of conflict that the relationship or marriage suffers. 


The negatives continue to build for a couple who has dysfunctional conflict methods, as the pain and hurt experienced begins to compound for at least one person, if not both. 


"Eventually the hurt builds and inevitably

one person decides to leave the marriage"


 How can you ...

  1. Predict when dysfunctional conflict will emerge between seemingly loving couples, and
  2. What can you do to prevent it from happening?


Marriage counsellors have found that couples with a good ability to communicate are better able to provide additional information to the matters in dispute.


These couples are able to inform their partners about key aspects of the matter they are in conflict with, which then allows the other partner to act in more thoughtful and appropriate ways, thus resulting in less relationship damage.


This in fact is the critical point - couples achieve better communication with greater levels of information. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and minimizes conflict inflammation.


 Tips to avoid the compounding effect include:


1.  If your partner has a complaint or matter of concern,

  • Prick your ears up,
  • Pay attention, and
  • DO something about it ASAP.

This piece of advice is vital..... avoid it at your peril...!


2.  Keep practicing. 

  • Develop your communication skills until you are getting consistent positive results. 
  • In particular, learn how to listen to your partner in a manner that leaves them feeling in no doubt that they are loved.


3.  Be quick to reconnect with each other following a conflict.


4.  Ensure that the matter is resolved and not just pushed to history.


5.  Be vigilant. Try not to repeat the same conflict


6.  Get help from a marriage counsellor early if patterns of dysfunctional conflict emerge.



Through ongoing healthy communication practices, couples are likely to develop functional conflict resolution skills and attitudes, thus ensuring a life long loving relationship.