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Managing Conflict in Relationships

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The topic that I have chosen to discuss throughout this paper is Managing and Resolving Conflicts in a Relationship. This topic is very important to me simply because, I personally see a lot of relationships failing, including some of mines due to lack of resolving and managing conflicts correctly. By the end of this paper I hope that I have helped the reader understand and eliminate any conflicts that confront their everyday lives.

Many relationships and about fifty-five percent of marriages end because of unresolved conflicts. Most of the time these relationships fail because people forget the true value and meaning of being in a relationship, many people lose focus and respect for the other person and that is when conflicts start arising. This is the time when communication would play a major role, knowing how to communicate with one another is always a positive aspect in a relationship. Although, some conflicts are not worth the stress, argument and or the demeaning of a person that is when you need to put a stop to it before it gets worst. Most conflicts in a relationship would not be resolved and that is when either side need to decide is it worth fighting? Most conflicts start over the most minor things or some are major. Many failed relationships happen because of financial problems, family stressor, sexual issues, expectations and poor time management skills.

When dealing with financial stress communication about money may be causing you grief. How you and your significant other deal with bills, debt, budget and other money-related issues can make or break your relationship. Reaching a compromise with your partner in this area can help safeguard your relationship from failure. Also, family stress goes hand to hand with financial stress because without the financial stability it would bring concerns and worries towards the house and the kids. Family stress is also caused when a person from the outside of the relationship tries to put their point of view into the conflicts and tries to tell someone what they would do if they was to be put in that predicament. Knowing how to put a stop to people trying to butt-in into your relationship could help you go a long way. Another major concern in a relationship is sexual issues, simply because if the person loose sexual interest it could lead to infidelity. Infidelity, infrequency and the quality of the physical intimacy are all factors to be considered. Sexual compatibility also requires discussion, which if absent in a relationship can lead to conflicts (David Centeno, 2011).

To be in a stable and healthy relationship both parties need to become one and learn on how to deal with each issue as a partner. Learning how to manage and resolve conflicts is a number one thing to do in a relationship, communication is a positive aspect for a healthy relationship. Being able to understand one another point of view, emotions and feelings is a way to learn how to manage and resolve conflicts. Dealing with conflicts does not need to be feared, interpersonal conflict is a natural component of human interactions. Dealing with issues as they occur, acknowledging the other party’s feelings and perspective, and avoiding judgment or blame further increase the chance of productive conflict resolution (Lifetips moving up in life, 2000). The presence of conflict does not indicate that a relationship is unhealthy or in trouble, although how partners manage conflict does influence relational health (Wilmont & Hocker, 2006) (Interpersonal Communication Everyday Encounters). Engaging in conflicts indicates that people are involved with each other. If they were not it would be no need to resolve the differences. That is a good point to keep in mind when conflicts arise, because it reminds us that a strong connection underlies even disagreements.

Understanding how to manage and resolve conflicts is to your benefit. When dealing with conflict treat it as normal and expected. Conflict need not be catastrophic or personal conflicts are simply part of being human. Deal with issues as they arise, avoiding conflict makes situations worse. Time does not resolve matters instead it decreases the chance of a positive outcome. Attempt to understand the other person’s point of view because dismissing the other’s views, assigning blame, and exclusive focus on your own perspective are all counterproductive. Do not judge emotions, no one’s feelings are more or less “right” than the other. Emotions reflect a valid perspective of an individual even if you don’t understand it; acknowledge the other person’s reaction as important. Focus on the behavior, situation or problem area without attacking the person involved. Do not assume your values or beliefs are “right”, they reflect a view of the world from your unique perspective. Respecting another’s viewpoint as equally valuable opens an opportunity for learning and growth (Lifetips moving up in life, 2000).

Handling conflict is a skill which can be learned. It requires practice, discipline and self-control. In the midst of conflict, most people forget the overall goal in addressing the conflict: Having your partner understand your feelings and resolving the disagreement. The more a couple can keep this goal in mind the less likely either will engage in criticism, yelling or name-calling. These behaviors only fuel the conflict (Managing Conflict in Your Relationship, Stanley Ducharme Ph.D). Negative energy in an argument is a waste of time, because nine times out of ten neither one of the sides are going to be listening to one another. In fact, underneath many arguments, there is at least one person in the relationship who feels neglected and devalued. The natural balance of the relationship has been lost. Often, conflicts in a relationship are an attempt to be heard, to be valued and to re-establish the balance that once existed. We all want to be able to feel cared about and appreciated. If one member of a couple begins to feel neglected, these concerns need to be raised before they become too big to handle. By keeping in close touch with each other, feelings can be discussed before they become too emotionally charged and explosive.

Most disagreements can be expressed either overtly or covertly. Overt conflict is out in the open and explicit. It exists when people deal with their differences in a direct, straightforward manner. Overt conflicts can also involve physical attacks, although of course that is neither healthy nor constructive. Physical violence is never acceptable in an intimate relationship and should not be tolerated. But, all conflicts are not always overt there is also other forms of conflicts. For example, covert conflicts exist when people express their feelings about disagreements indirectly. When angry, a person may deliberately do something to hurt or upset another person. An example of covert conflict, knowing that Elliot hates to be kept waiting, his wife intentionally arrives 20 minutes late for a dinner date because he chose a restaurant that she does not like. They are expressing their anger indirectly, and the conflict is covert. A common form of covert conflict is passive aggression, which is acting aggressively while denying feeling or acting aggressive. Passive aggression punishes another person without accepting responsibility for the punishment. It undercuts the possibility of honest, healthy relationships. Must covert conflicts takes place through games, highly patterned interactions in which the real conflicts are hidden or denied and a counterfeit excuse is created for arguing or criticizing. (Berne, 1964, Interpersonal Communication Everyday encounters.)

There are different kinds of games that can be played by people. For example, a game called “blemish” would be one of them. “Blemish” is when one person pretends to be complimentary but actually puts another down. “Blemish” focuses on one thing that is wrong and downplays all that is right. The person anger or resentment is expressed indirectly. Another commonly played game is “Mines is worse than yours” which consist of people trying to monopolize rather than listen and respond to each other. An example, suppose that you tell a friend that you have two tests and a paper due next week, and your friend says, “You think that’s bad? Listen to this: I have two tests, three papers, and an oral report all due in the next two weeks!” That person expressed no concern for your issues; rather they told you that their situation was worst. Those are common games that people play on the daily, even though most of them are not intentionally played, they still do happen and people still do play them. Some of these games lead to intense arguments and conflicts.

When an argument becomes intense, the couples need to take time out early and as often as they can. Taking time out does not mean walking away or ending a relationship. Taking time out consist of giving each other a break in the middle of an argument to walk away, and not say things out of spite to hurt each other feelings. It would be helpful to talk to your partner ahead of time about the times out. When the person becomes too overwhelmed, the other person should have a sign or signal when they have had enough and they need time away from the argument. They should both agree that they could get a 24 hour time out and try to resolve the issue as early as possible the next day. That way they could both have time to cool off, process things correctly, and not let their emotions over rule their proper thinking or state of mind. Before talking again, share an everyday activity to regain closeness, and a connection.

There are five ways to side-step a fight these strategies can stop a fight before it starts: for instance seeing things from your partner’s point of view could always prevent a fight from starting. It eliminates any further aggression or any old conflict from arising. Also, counting to fifty before saying anything that would be out of spite will be another strategy to side-step a fight. This pause will help you calm down just long enough to think better of your response and your attitude. Remember, to not throw any verbal bombs towards one another. Try avoiding put-downs, personal attacks, judgments, criticism, and blaming as well as sulking, interrupting, and stomping out of the room. Before anything, ask yourself if you can and should you solve the problem on your own. Try skipping heavy conversations before breakfast and from eleven a.m. to twelve p.m. and three-thirty p.m. to six p.m., because nobody should argue on an empty stomach. And, also try banning problem-solving talks after about eight p.m. Fatigue starts many fights! (14 Ways to Resolve Conflicts and Solve Relationship Problems, Sara Harrar & Rita Demaria)

Conflicts can be good for individuals and relationships, although we tend to think of conflict negatively it can be beneficial in a number of ways (Parker-Pope, 2010). When handled constructively, conflicts provide opportunity for people to grow as individuals and strengthen their relationships. Conflicts can also enhance relationships by expanding partner’s understandings of one another. What usually begins as a discussion of a particular issue usually winds up giving broader information about why partner’s feel as they do and what meanings they attach to the issue. Lack of conflict is not necessarily a symptom of a healthy relationship (Arnett, 1986; Parker Pope, 2010). Having low levels of conflicts could reflect limited emotional depths or unwillingness to engage in communication about differences. The key to a good relationship is to keep a greater number of positive affirming interactions than negative ones. This would be what we refer to as “keeping a positive balance in the marital bank account” (Gottman & Silver, 2000).

But, of course not all conflicts end up in a positive way. Ineffective communication can hurt individuals, damage relationships, and undermine the possibility of resolving problems. Unproductive communication patterns in managing conflict reflect a preoccupation with oneself and a disregard for the other person. As a result of this communication tends to be more negative than it should be positive. When in an argument the first three minutes of an argument may be the most important because they tend to set the stage for how conflict would be managed (Parker-Pope, 2010). During the early stages of conflict, people tend to listen poorly. People may start to listen selectively, only listening to what they expect or want to believe. Once a negative climate has been set, it is provoked by other unconstructive communication. People often engage in what is called kitchen-sinking, in which everything except the kitchen sink is thrown into the argument. Even if people make little progress into fixing their problems limited time and energy guarantee an end to a conflict. As a result, each person’s tend to be met by a counterproposal. The self-preoccupation that first surfaced in the early stage still persist, so each person is more interested in pushing his or her solution than considering the other person’s. Excessive metacommunication is a final form of negative communication in unproductive conflicts.

In constructive conflict communication, people use metacommunication to keep the discussion on track. In contrast, people who manage conflict unproductively often become embroiled in metacommunication and cannot get back to the original issues. Excessive metacommunication is more likely to block partners than to resolve tensions satisfactorily. The communication that makes up the unproductive conflict reflects and promotes egocentrism and dogmatism, which is rigid thinking, because negative communication tends
to be self-perpetuating. Egocentrism leads to poor listening, which promotes disconfirmation which fuels defensiveness, which provokes dogmatism, which leads to hostile mind reading and kitchen-sinking. Unproductive communication fosters a defensive, negative climate, which makes it almost impossible to resolve conflicts, confirm individuals, or nurture a relationship.

In conclusion, managing and resolving conflicts in a relationship could be either positive or negative. It all depends on how the person goes about handling the issue, and how well their communication skill is. The other person should also always keep in mind that not every conflict would be resolved but if they are willing to both work together as one, there is not a conflict that they could not overcome.


1. Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters
Written by Julia T. Wood
2. Managing Conflicts in a relationship
–http://relationship.lifetips.com/cat/64813/managing-conflict-in-relationships/index.html 3. 14 ways to resolve conflict and solve relationship problems
— http://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/14-ways-resolve-conflicts-and-solve-relationship-problems/4/ 4. Managing conflicts in your relationship
-http://www.stanleyducharme.com/resources/relation_conflict.html 5. Top ten reasons marriages fail

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