• Annie Byrne

Conflict in relationships

Updated: May 2

Conflict is inevitable within relationships but some couples know how to do conflict well and are even stronger for it. If you and your partner want to become one of these couples then try out these guidelines for 'fair fighting'. This will help you and your partner to handle conflict in a healthier, more productive way.


Conflict is a normal part of being in a relationship. When two individuals come together it is normal for them to have: varying opinions; different ways of doing things as well as different ways of thinking and behaving. We each have unique upbringings; varying life experiences and frameworks from which we navigate our relationships. There are normally also variances in our values, beliefs and priorities. No matter what the circumstances, there will be some sort of conflict and it is important for us to handle this in a respectful way in order to nurture our relationships. But how can we learn to communicate efficiently in times of disagreement? What would be some 'fair fighting rules'? See below some guidelines and discuss these with your partner so that you can both try and get on the same page when it comes to conflict within your relationship.

  1. Identify how you feel before bringing it up with your partner

  2. Stay on the topic and don't bring up past hurts or other issues.

  3. Try to notice when you are becoming defensive and actively work on keeping your defense mechanisms at bay.

  4. No name calling, swearing or threatening to leave your partner during a conflict.

  5. Take turns talking; let the other person finish before you respond.

  6. Practice active listening; really consider what your partner has to say before responding. Think about what you would like to communicate before speaking and take breaks if necessary.

  7. Be mindful of your tone and attitude towards your partner

  8. Use 'I' statements and avoid using 'you' statements when possible

  9. Don't become emotionally flooded. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed communicate that you need to take a timeout and do so.

  10. No walking out without naming a follow up time. Always come back to the problem later when you have both cooled down.

  11. Avoid sarcasm or becoming passive aggressive (blatant aggression or threats is obviously not okay either).

  12. No stonewalling; try to use your words and when you're not ready to respond or you need time to think then communicate that and revisit it later

  13. Try to remove 'the issue' from the person and work together to address 'the issue'

  14. Do not use catastrophic language like "you always" or "you never"

  15. Avoid making assumptions but rather ask questions to help you understand your partner's perspective

  16. Once you have forgiven then let it go. Don't hold past grudges against your partner but rather start fresh and reset.


I hope this can give some basic tools for you to try out with your partner in times of conflict. Please feel free to comment and let me know what else works for you and your partner below. Thanks for reading!

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