The Definitive Guide to Dealing with Relationship Conflict [Part 1]

DJ Wayne djwayne3 Twitter Thu Aug 24 2023

Ah, love—the stuff of poetry, songs, and late-night talks. But let's be real: love isn't always a bed of roses. Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship. The question isn't if you'll fight, but how you'll fight. This guide aims to be your go-to resource for navigating relationship conflicts effectively. We'll delve into expert advice, common pitfalls, and practical steps to turn disagreements into opportunities for growth. So, let's get started.

two greek statues looking at each other

The Importance of Conflict Management

Is conflict bad? No

Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be an opportunity for growth and better understanding between partners. However, how you manage conflict can make or break your relationship. According to Dr. John Gottman, renowned relationship expert, your conflict style can either erode trust or build a stronger bond between you and your partner1.

The Four Horsemen: Conflict Styles to Avoid

What are the Four Horsemen?

Dr. John Gottman identifies four conflict styles that can hurt your relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These styles can rip at the very fabric of your relationship if not addressed.


Criticism involves attacking your partner’s character. Phrases like “You never help around here” or “Why can’t you be more thoughtful?” are examples of criticism.


Contempt is when you’re disrespectful and purposely hurtful. This includes name-calling, mocking, and other harmful forms of communication.


Defensiveness signals to your partner that their concerns don’t matter. It comes off as self-centered and dismissive.


Stonewalling involves shutting down and refusing to engage with your partner. This can be a natural response to feeling overwhelmed but is harmful in the long run.

two greek statues in a standoff


The Art of Fighting Fair

Focus on the Issue, Not the Person

The issue is not your partner or the person you are fighting. The issue is how the situation is being handled. If the situation was handled differently you would not be fighting.

Tony Robbins talks about the importance of focusing on resolving the issue rather than defending yourself. Where focus goes, energy flows. If you focus on where you don’t want your relationship to end up, you’ll find yourself there.

Effective Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of resolving disagreements. One couple in a coffee shop argued about going to dinner with friends. One partner said, “It’s never fun—you said so yourself last time,” while the other responded sarcastically. The other couple, however, communicated their feelings and found a compromise3.

Turn Conflict into Opportunity

Conflicts are opportunities for you and your partner to align on values and outcomes. They are chances to understand, appreciate, and embrace differences3.

Practical Steps for Conflict Resolution

Step 1: Self-Examination

Before diving into the conflict, examine your focus. Are you focused on building a beautiful, passionate relationship, or are you focused on defending yourself? Your focus determines the direction of your relationship4.

Step 2: Open Dialogue

Open and honest communication is crucial. Avoid blame games and focus on understanding each other’s perspectives1.

Step 3: Seek to Understand

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Try to understand their feelings, needs, and viewpoints1.

Step 4: Find Common Ground

Identify shared goals and values. This common ground will serve as the foundation for resolving the conflict.


Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. By understanding harmful conflict styles and adopting healthy communication strategies, you can turn disagreements into opportunities for growth. Remember, the goal isn’t to win the argument but to strengthen the relationship.

I hope this guide serves you well. Remember, the key to a strong relationship isn’t avoiding conflict.

Footnotes/ References

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