Healthy intimate relationships are amazing, fulfilling, and wonderful on so many levels. They’re also hard. They require work, commitment, compromise, and a willingness on the part of both people to push through the difficult times. All long-term relationships will occasionally have bumps in the road that call into question the meaning and purpose of being together. But hopefully, there are more good times than bad ones, so that you can enjoy the day-to-day companionship and a deep connection with the one you love.
With that said, I know there are plenty of couples who struggle with having a healthy and good relationship. Even though two people might love each other and care deeply about one another, there can still be a lot of conflict that eventually erodes the quality of their bond. And not only does this become a big source of stress, but frequent arguments can also adversely affect your mental and physical health.
4 Healthier Ways for Couples to Manage Conflict
Fortunately, there are some very achievable ways to better manage your disagreements so that they don’t turn into ugly battles that no one ever wins. I believe that if you and your spouse/partner take the time to practice these behaviors, you’ll discover that you can learn to disagree about things without it always turning into some kind of household war.
1. Listen without interrupting. This is a challenging one because when we’re upset, we just want to blurt out how we feel or why we disagree without taking the other person’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. Good communication is essential for any relationship, so take turns hearing each other out and repeat back what you heard, asking for clarification if necessary so that your partner knows you really are listening (and vice versa).
2. Stop the blame game. Each of you needs to take responsibility for what you did or didn’t do that led to the problem. No one “makes” another person act or speak in a certain way. Each of us gets to choose how we respond to another person’s words or behavior. Yes, what they did might have been hurtful, irresponsible, or in another way damaging to your trust, but the way you respond is 100% up to you.
3. Don’t be so critical. If you’re prone to always noticing and mentioning what your spouse does wrong or what you don’t like about them, you’re not only diminishing their sense of self-esteem, but you’re also forging a bigger gap between the two of you. Who wants to be criticized all the time? Pretty much no one. If necessary, get some professional help to see what’s driving your need to always point out your partner’s flaws. It might come from your own upbringing. Also, couples who notice what they like about each other more often than what they don’t like and regularly provide one another with positive comments are significantly less likely to split up.
4. Apologize. When you’ve acted like a jerk, hurt your significant other’s feelings, didn’t follow-through on something you’d promised, or whatever caused the other person distress or pain, own what you did and tell them you’re sorry—apologize from your heart. Also, if you really love your significant other, you’ll try not to make the same hurtful mistake again. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
These simple strategies can go a long way in managing relationship conflicts. For numerous reasons, not everyone was taught these growing up but they’re not that hard to do. I know it takes some humility to make positive behavior changes like these, but hopefully your relationship is worth it. And if you have kids, you’ll be providing them with better modeling for managing conflict with those they love.
Do You Feel Safe in Your Relationship?
Before I end this blog, I would be remiss if I didn’t directly address relationships that can be toxic—ones where compromise isn’t an option or violence is occurring. If you’re in a marriage or relationship where you are experiencing intimidation, manipulation, fear, or any other kind of abuse, or if you often find yourself having to appease your partner’s anger to keep things under control, I urge you to reach out to a domestic violence advocacy organization in your community.
The trained staff there can provide you with resources and tools that will help you find safety if you need it, and/or strategies to move forward with your life if your current situation is intolerable or is preventing that.
All of us need and should have the respect of those who profess to love us, so make sure you’re not selling yourself short. You deserve to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship!
For more inspiration, order my newest book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.