Category: <span>Couples Therapy</span>

6 Tips for Solving Relationship Conflicts

Conflict within romantic relationships is inevitable. When you integrate your life with
another person, it is bound to lead to disputes at some point.

Arguments within romantic relationships range from small ones surrounding what movie to watch to larger ones over career choices or how to raise children. It’s important to
note that while arguments aren’t ideal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is trouble
in your relationship. When handled correctly, conflict can help to strengthen a
relationship. However, conflicts can escalate to where nothing is resolved and can lead
to the deterioration in relationships.

On the flip side, a couple that never has a conflict or talks about problems doesn’t have
an opportunity to communicate and resolve them. Finding a balance between high
levels of conflict and no conflict can help couples have a long and healthy relationship together.

That being said,

having specific tools and strategies at your disposal during a conflict

can help improve the odds of a successful resolution. Here are some tools that can help
solve relationship conflict:

Be direct

It can be easy for people to beat around the bush instead of plaining stating what is
upsetting or bothering them. When in conflict, people often choose a more subtle and
indirect way of expressing their displeasure.

For instance, partners may avoid discussing the conflict by switching topics or
minimizing their feelings by responding with “I’m fine” after their partner notices they are
irritated. This lack of directness leaves both partners without a clear guide as to what
the problem is, how the other person is feeling, or how to solve the problem.

Instead, work towards having direct communication with your partner. While it may be a
bit uncomfortable at first, directly stating what is bothering you is the first step in solving
relationship conflict.

Use “I”  Statements & quotes to talk about the way you feel without blaming your partner

Statements that directly blame or put your partner as the direct reason for your feeling
seldomly help produce a good healthy dialogue on solving the problem. This is because
people typically go on the defense when they feel blamed or attacked in a conversation.

Instead, a more constructive way to communicate your feelings is through the use of “I
statements.” These statements focus on how you feel instead of being directed at your
partner. For instance, an “I statement” would pair an emotion and a behavior description
that focuses on a specific behavior your partner is engaged in. An example of this could
be, “I feel sad when you are on your phone during dinner.” This helps you be direct
while focusing on your partner’s specific behavior and the emotion that it makes you
feel.

Stay away from using the words like “never” or “always” during an argument

Saying things like “You are always selfish” during an argument leads the other partner
to feel like you’re attacking their character. This leads to defensiveness, stonewalling,
and decreased chance of solving the conflict at hand.

Instead of using words that suggest that you’re partner “always”or “never” does
something that bothers you, try focusing on the particular situation at hand. Focusing on
the current situation allows you and your partner to work together to resolve the current
conflict without bringing up one’s character or other moments within the relationship.

Not Everything Needs to be a Conflict

Not every single situation needs to turn into a conflict. A relationship is about
compromise and understanding. While some things do need to be addressed,

especially if they make you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or hurt, it may be best to let go
of minor issues such as forgetting to empty the dishwasher once in a while.

Listen to What your Partner is Saying

Sometimes we fall into the habit of listening to our partners to respond. But,
unfortunately, when we listen to respond instead of listening to comprehend, sometimes
we miss what our partner is trying to tell us.

Trying practicing active listening by reflecting the content of what your partner is telling
you back to them. This will help you better understand what your partner is telling you
and lead to more understanding of the conflict and better discussions surrounding it.

Know When it is Time to Take a Time-Out

Tensions can run high at times during a conflict. While it’s important to talk it out,
stepping away from the problem for a bit can also be beneficial. Taking a break can
allow you to process your own emotions around the conflict and calm any heightened
emotions that may have come about.

However, its essential to note that taking a time-out and removing yourself from the
situation is different. By taking a breather, you and your partner communicate how long
the time-out will be, where you are going (taking a walk around the block, going on a car
ride, etc.), and when you are going to continue the conversation. This communication
will help both partners feel respected and minimize any feelings of abandonment or
hurt.

For instance, communicating your need for a break could look like, &quot;Can we take a 20-
minute break from this conversation? I want to calm down a bit and go for a walk around
the block. We can talk about this more when I get back.&quot; Clearly stating your need for a
break and being specific and direct will allow your partner to understand where you are
coming from and be on the same page.

How to Start Therapy

As recently as ten years ago, mental health wasn’t something that many people talked about. In fact, seeing a therapist was rarely something anyone would advertise in their life. However, as mental health becomes more normalized, seeking therapy is something that is progressively becoming a standard practice for many. 

Is therapy right for me? 

It can be difficult to know when going to get professional help is right for you, especially if you have never been to therapy before. Therapy is a vulnerable and private experience and starting can be overwhelming. 

Because of this, it may take some time and consideration to decide if you are ready to see a therapist. However, according to the American Psychological Association, therapy should be considered if you:

  • Thinking about or coping with the issue for more than an hour a day 
  • The issue pushes you to avoid others 
  • Your quality of life has decreased as a result of the issues you are experiencing
  • The issues are negatively affecting aspects of your life such as school, work, or relationships 
  • You have created coping mechanisms or habits to deal with the issue that are causing problems or a decrease in quality of life

If any of these things describe you or you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or generally unhappy, it might be a sign that your internal ‘check engine’ light is on and seeing a mental health professional such as a therapist could help. 

Benefits of Therapy 

For those of us that don’t have a lot of experience with therapy, it could be seen as something that is for ‘crazy people’. However, that isn’t the case. In fact, a lot of successful people use psychotherapy as a tool to help manage stress, navigate life transitions, and gain skills to be successful and happy in life. 

In fact, research shows multiple benefits that therapy can have for individual. For instance, therapy can help you to better understand yourself, how you think and how you feel in situations better, give you tools to deal with difficulties in your life, and help you gain new insight and perspective. In addition to this, therapy also gives you a non-judgemental space to process and talk through emotions and difficult events.

How to Start

Finding a therapist, scheduling an appointment, and going to your first appointment can be a bit daunting. Because of this, it is important to understand and acknowledge any stigmas that you may be holding that are keeping you from starting this process in the first place. 

If you are worried about privacy or disclosure, it should be noted that therapy is confidential. This means that no one in your life is even needs to know that you are seeking therapy. Additionally, mental health professionals are bound by law to protect your privacy so you can be confident that what happens in session stays in the session. 

Finding a Good Fit

There are a lot of things to consider before making an appointment with a therapist. We recommend taking a look at the clinicians available here, knowing what the cost is and if your insurance will cover any of it, and what type of therapy you are looking for. 

It may also be helpful to come up with a list of questions for the therapist. This can help you get a better sense of what to expect from therapy and to help you feel more comfortable with starting this process. 

Some common questions to ask are: what experience does the therapist have working with your particular situation, what does a typical session look like, and kind of therapy does the clinician practice.    

What Happens if the Therapist I see isn’t a good fit? 

If, after your first session, you feel like the therapist isn’t what you are looking for, it is completely ok to try another therapist out. It isn’t uncommon to try another therapist and is completely fine to break off that relationship. 

While it may be uncomfortable to ‘break up’ with your therapist, it is important to push past those feelings in order to find something that will be beneficial to you. Let the current therapist know that it doesn’t seem like a good fit and the therapist or practice can help you find a clinician that may be a better fit for you. 

Remember, mental health professionals’ main goal is to help you get better so we don’t take it personally if you think someone else will be a better fit for your specific needs. 

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