When you’d hear “conflict” and “relationships”, we’d automatically feel fear and nervousness. When dealing with any conflict in relationships, there’s stress from the misunderstanding and disagreement we have with one another. Thus, we must negotiate to find a solution, which takes time.
However, some relationships (especially couples) opt to push it under the rug and move on. Thus, it leads to more relationship distrust that erupts into a frenzy.
In today’s guide, we’ll learn the ins and outs of conflict in relationships because they share two sides of the coin. Alongside this, we’ll share our top tips for resolving them.
Defining Conflict in Relationships
Conflict in relationships is a disagreement centered on specific issues between people, which is impactful enough to disrupt the flow of your relationship. Yet we shouldn’t let it get the best of us because it’s normal for them to occur! It’s only evident to have episodes of not seeing eye to eye with each other in all kinds of relationships because we’re human, where it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.
Conflict in relationships is neither good nor bad as well, but it’s how you react to them. It can be for a good cause as you’ll understand your partner’s perspectives on life more and can even grow from them. But it can be disastrous to the point it can cause tension and awkwardness for those around you. Due to this, conflict can make or break a relationship, to show whether or not it’s a healthy one, and if it’s worth maintaining.
Conflict in relationships is also interpersonal conflict, where it arises between people who aim to maintain a long-term relationship. Those include family, friends, and romantic relationships, but we’ll focus more on the latter.
To get a better grasp of how conflict works, two professors and authors of “Managing Conflict through Communication” named Dudley D. Cahn and Ruth Anna Abigail broke it down into 4 main parts. They’re quoted as such:
- The parties in conflict parties are interdependent.
- They have the perception that they seek incompatible goals or outcomes (wanting two different things) or they favor incompatible means to the same ends (same goal, different approach).
- The perceived incompatibility has the potential to adversely affect the relationship leaving emotional residues if not addressed (lots of talking over, dominating, belittling, and even non-engagement).
- A sense of urgency about the need to resolve the difference (or else it’ll worsen over time because it becomes pent-up energy).
Causes of Conflict in Relationships
Conflict in relationships root in our external surroundings, which can also affect our internal wiring. From there, we get immense amounts of stress. Check out some common root causes that lead to conflict in one’s relationship with another below.
1 One or the other gives constant criticism.
Your partner over time would nitpick about everything you do, getting all up in your business to point out any flaws. They can even blame you for everything when any misfortune occurs and try to fix the situation in their own way because they think they’re better.
2 One or the other exhibits selfishness.
We may indulge in our desires too much that we forget about our surroundings and the people around us. They’ll hint that we don’t care about their needs or time, which affects them gravely. Another way to show this trait is forgetting to include them and their opinions when making decisions. Basically, we become inconsiderate and disrespectful in their eyes.
3 One holds unattainable expectations for the other.
Don’t be brainwashed into thinking the fairytales, the dreamy “Happily Ever After”, and your perfect Prince or Princess will waltz into your life effortlessly. They’re fantasies after all, and you must face reality wherein everything you desire requires hard work. So to get to a relationship that feels like a dream, you’ll have to encounter obstacles to get there.
Also, the more we think of our ideal Prince/ss Charming, the more our standards become unrealistic because we begin to aim for perfection. So when you find someone, only for them not to reach all your standards, you become disappointed and tend to ponder on that longer. Another thing to keep in mind is that providing happiness is a you-job, wherein you shouldn’t only rely on your partner to give it to you.
4 One or both of you have poor communication skills.
When neither of you verbalizes your thoughts and plans properly or rarely tells each other important things, misunderstandings would come into place. It can even escalate into heated arguments wherein the two of you would try to top your words and acclaim dominance. Rather than finding a solution or middle ground, all you do is lash out and focus on anger.
5 One holds resentment towards the other.
Let’s say you’re out at a social gathering, then your partner jokingly comments on how you dressed that night. However, it had the opposite effect and impacted you negatively, yet you never addressed it and held it in. That feeling would eventually boil up, then when they try to talk to you, you’d become mean and annoyed. Another way to show resentment is by acting inconsiderate with or without reason towards you. From forgetting to ask for your coffee order or buying a new piece of furniture, you’d be irritated that you weren’t included.
Popular Examples of Conflict in Relationships
Knowing now the causes of conflict in relationships, what kind of things would a couple disagree over and even drastically? Here’s a list of key examples to keep an eye out for.
- Insecurity: Everyone has their flaws and all, but it can take a toll on your relationship when your mind radars over them constantly. This can lead to arguments and bickering, even jealousy if an unexpected second party is involved.
- Leisure time: You’re not spending as much time as you both liked.
- Sex and Intimacy: This happens when you and your partner are into different kinks and sexual acts. Sexual compatibility is also involved here.
- Finances: Money problems are common, from budgeting, saving, spending habits, and more.
- Long-term goals: These consist of marriage, children, moving to another country together, etc.
- Household-related matters (for those who live together)
- Need for power and control (watch out for this one, especially as we discuss this further on)
- Clash in personalities
Effects of Conflict in Relationships
When the bad side of conflicts hits you, the impact can be ingrained into your system and affect your daily lifestyle. That’s why there is importance in addressing them before they worsen one’s well-being. Listed below are common bad effects to look out for when dealing with conflict in relationships
- Being diagnosed with mental health illnesses (anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Being emotionally and physically numb to problems
- Less joy or any positive feelings in the relationship
- Exhibiting detrimental behavior (binge drinking, engaging in drugs, and even violence in the worst-case scenario)
- Zero to no motivation to work on fixing your relationship
- More insecurities towards yourself
Tips on How to Resolve Conflict
There is always a solution in every disagreement to calm the waters and gradually patch things up. It’s also how you approach your partner afterward and see how you’d both work things out. This also helps indicate whether your relationship is worth the long-run haul.
Continue reading through our highlighted suggestions to see which solution best suits you and your partner’s current dynamic and situation.
1 Maintain composure.
After your disagreement, it’ll leave you and your partner hot and heavy, no matter how deep the topic is. So it’s highly recommended to talk only when you’re in a good mood, where your mind is clear and at ease. However, when things get heated again, take a break to cool off and stay silent before talking again.
Because think about it – You’re not talking to attack, you’re talking to fix things. With that, don’t insult your partner with names, scream at them, threaten them meanly, or even speak with a mocking or sarcastic tone because you’re only making the situation worse.
2 Make room for transparent and respectful communication.
Proper communication can solve so many problems in thin air. Establishing this puts you and your partner in each other’s shoes to understand each other, letting you know more about your partner and what problems to avoid in the future. For this to work, you must set a safe environment for you and your partner to talk. Carve out time during your downtime when other stress-giving activities aren’t in the way. Once you’re together, you must be both a listener and a talker. From there, verbalize clearly the root of the problem.
Further on this, don’t make assumptions even if it’s tempting for your mind to overthink certain words they said or actions they did. Get your answers directly from them. Use “I” statements rather than “You” when you talk to them.
Take these statements for reference:
Instead of: “You are always busy and even forgot to buy us dinner!”
Say this: “I feel annoyed because you’re constantly overtime at the office, than rest and go home. I miss spending time with you, but I’m also sad you broke your promise of buying us dinner to make it up to me. It makes me feel like less of a priority.”
From there, work on the “we need to fix this” solution.
Doing these things makes you more honest and authentic with each other, which establishes stronger trust in each other. Alongside them, don’t forget to establish boundaries and suggest creative solutions on both your ends when you get into disagreements again.
3 Pick your battles wisely.
Ever heard of the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” in passing? It’s very effective when dealing with conflict in relationships because you know what topics to filter out. So take this time and opportunity to ask yourselves if what you’re arguing over is that important.
For example, is buying burgers and fries over pizza for dinner really a big deal? You were hungry, and it was the only meal available. Isn’t being able to eat already a good thing in itself? With that, you must be strategic and wise about what petty problems don’t need attention. You’ll only waste your energy and time if you argue over something minuscule and won’t matter in a week.
4 Find a middle ground in every situation.
Relationships require compromise. When dealing with a difficult situation, you and your partner should aim to find and get to that midpoint. A midpoint where both your needs are balanced, wherein you negotiate on certain things without feeling like you made the most sacrifices. Lowering your pride and avoiding thoughts like “I’m in the right” must be pushed aside to solve things; don’t make it personal either. But at the same time, you can also agree to disagree. Make sure to reach an agreement at the end that satisfies you and move on forward.
5 Follow an abundance mindset.
Early on, accept your partner as they are. They’re human just like you, prone to making mistakes and have mannerisms that aren’t to our liking. Due to that, conflict in relationships happens. However, we shouldn’t pay too much attention to their negative side. Because aside from those things, they also have traits we love about them.
Channel more of your focus on what they bring to the table, how they make you feel, and their best qualities. Also, continue to be open to learning more things about your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together.
6 Break the ice through humor.
Nothing can break tension more than laughter in the air, and letting it occur during arguments aren’t an exception. Of course, take time to process whatever is happening between you and your partner in the heat of your argument. Then slowly, let it go through laughter.
Even if the dilemma is as small as forgetting to close the toothpaste cap before falling asleep, you can joke around by saying that the ghost will use it to brush their teeth if your partner doesn’t get to it. Silly things can make you laugh, boosting your mood and alleviating your stress in no time. Oh, and you get to bond with your partner more.
7 Observe your negative patterns.
Normally, we develop habits that we think aren’t serious. But others around you may think otherwise. For example, you tend to snooze once or twice after your first alarm in the morning to sleep a little more. But in your partner’s case, their slumber is disturbed, and they can’t return to their peaceful sleep.
So when they confront you about it, pinpoint how you’d act when you get into situations like this. Notice whether you raise your voice a little more or refuse to speak. Detach from there, listen to their concern and fix them. Mature from them. So in this case, maybe refrain from snoozing or setting the alarm at a later time that you can both agree on.
8 Practice forgiveness.
This tip can be tricky because we tend to hold grudges (even if we say we don’t) because we don’t want to get hurt again. Even saying the straightforward “I’m sorry” is a way to lower our pride, which we often feel uncomfortable doing. Whether you hurt your partner or vice versa, both sides of the coin are difficult spots based on your personality.
However, it’s a great way to get closure on both ends and move on. So if you’re the one who was offended, take your time before forgiving. This is because it depends on how grave the situation is. Then if you’re the person responsible for the pain, avoid self-blame for what you did and give the person you hurt space to breathe and cope.
Once the two of you are feeling better, meet with each other and work towards it through the small things. Whether to greet them with sweet good mornings, wholesome displays of affection (kisses), or making their favorite food, engage in feel-good activities to diffuse the tension.
9 Spare time for physical touch.
Before you get too playful, this tip isn’t just limited to sex! Like yes, makeup sex after a fight has your gears in a twist with pent-up sexual desire after not being on good terms for a while. But merely solving any conflict in relationships, no matter the degree of graveness, through the deed without proper communication isn’t healthy.
Generally, it’s hard to be affectionate when you and your partner are heated and angry at each other. Even being in the same room can be suffocating, so one of you ends up walking out for a while. But when everything is all good, follow your gut to be affectionate again. It’s only a part of being human to crave physical touch with people we love. You can start with hand-holding if you’re out in public and perhaps have your partner’s arm around your shoulder when you feel more comfortable.
10 Observe if your partner showcases controlling behaviorism.
Conflicts aren’t meant to make you feel insecure or terrible about yourself. If your partner is always blaming you and trying to take charge of your lifestyle, that’s a major red flag. Manipulation also comes into play.
Problems they’d have with you include:
- Spending time on hobbies or other loved ones rather than them only
- Prioritizing education/work instead of focusing on them only
- Pressuring you to do the deed for their pleasure
- Asking for their permission to see your friends (like hello, you’re not my parent)
- When seen with anyone of the opposite sex, they’ll automatically assume you’re cheating with them.
In other words, they want you to center your entire world around them like a god. So observe their reactions when you defend yourself against their behavior. Even if they say stuff like “I’m like this”, “I have trust issues”, “I’m just concerned for you”, they shouldn’t try and control you like a toy.
Continuing this kind of relationship may lead to a cycle of abuse, which goes beyond any solvable conflict in relationships. Thus, you must end the relationship as much as you can. If not, you can get professional help using the laws below.
Republic Act No. RA 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004)
Republic Act No. RA 8353 (Anti-Rape Law of 1997)
11 Go to therapy.
This can be either individual or couple’s counseling. With the former, it can aid one in knowing why they act the way they act or respond the way they respond in a relationship among many benefits. As for the latter, it’s an ideal choice if communicating together has become difficult or your relationship problems are too severe.
Generally, therapists can help you get clear and be aware of your surroundings. They’ll be able to figure out exactly what the conflict in your relationship is, which leads the two of you to learn new conflict resolution skills and strategies for proper emotion management. Especially the negative ones, so neither of you goes ham on the other when conflict gets in the way.
12 Rethink if your relationship is worth it in the long run.
So picture every conflict you have, and whenever you try to fix it, it does work for a while. Then it gets tense once again, sparking more disagreements left and right. Suppose you notice that your differences with each other are too vast, that it makes you feel like a martyr to sacrifice and compromise for their sake. In that case, you may need to reconsider if your current relationship will be sustainable. Being in a relationship also means sharing aligned views and goals; it’s in your compatibility.
Know that relationships come and go, but conflict remains. If your partner only brings out the worst in you in every conflict, you may need to reevaluate and decide whether to end it or not. However, this is the last case scenario if you’ve tried the previous tips to save your relationship.
Conflict in relationships is as bad as you make them to be. But it can also be a good thing, allowing more honesty and transparency to flow through you. As long as you communicate well, respect each other’s differences, and welcome an open environment to talk, you can solve your conflicts in no time. Yet remain observant always, so you don’t fall into bad or violent habits.