The Definitive Guide to Relationship Conflict [Part 1]

Thu Aug 24 2023

two Greek statues looking at each other.
Table of Contents

Ah, love—the stuff of poetry, songs, and late-night talks. But as you might have heard love isn't always a bed of roses.

Conflict is inevitable. The question isn’t if you’ll fight but when, how, and over what. This guide aims to be your go-to resource for navigating that relationship conflict. Here we will go over the common pitfalls, and practical steps, and prevention tips to turn disagreements into opportunities for growth.

Reframing Conflict

Is Conflict bad? No

Conflict can be a good thing.

My therapist once told me “conflict is growth trying to happen.” Consider that for a moment. The reason you are fighting is because something important is at stake. The conflict arises out of the struggle to understand the needs, wants, views and beliefs of another person.

People and especially couples develop patterns when conflict arises. These patterns are usually bad and have the potential to break your relationship over time. According to Dr. John Gottman, a revered expert when it comes to relationship conflict, he says that these patterns are either woring to erode trust or to build a stronger bond.

Gotman has written about “The Four Horsemen” bad conflict.

What are the Four Horsemen?

The Four Horsemen are the four common relationship pitfalls that have been identified through relationship research. These four pitfalls lead to the end of relationships. The four horsemen are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Here we will explain the patterns behind each of the pitfalls.


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.

What are the antidotes?

the antidotes for the four horsemen
the antidotes for the Four Horsemen from the Gottman Institute

Now that we have identified some of the pitfalls. Let’s get into how to fight well.

The Art of Fighting Well

Focus on the Issue, Not the Person

The issue is not your partner or the person you are fighting.

The problem is how the situation is being handled and the patterns you are falling into. You and the person you are fighting with have a lot in common. Find the common ground and cast a vision for how both can be done. If the situation were 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 compromise.

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 differences.

two Greek statues in a standoff.


Practical Steps for Conflict Resolution

The following is a checklist of things to think about before trying to resolve your conflict.

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 relationship.

Step 2: Open Dialogue

Open and honest communication is crucial. Avoid blame games and focus on understanding each other’s perspectives. If you are too heated and angry you are not going to have a productive dialogue. Give yourself time to gather your thoughts before rushing to vent or rant.

Step 3: Seek to Understand

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Try to understand their feelings, needs, and viewpoints. If you are completely lost, say that. Be vulnerable and say that you are having a hard time understanding where the other person is coming from.

Step 4: Find Common Ground

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


As mentioned before conflict 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.

Part 2

Footnotes/ References

We are making something 👷🔨 join the waitlist

Find out the similarities and differences
between you and anyone