Five Tips For Navigating Conflict In Your Relationship

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated May 13, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Romantic relationships can be challenging at times. Humans are complex and imperfect, and conflict may arise from time to time with any type of interpersonal connection. 

There are times when love isn’t easy. That said, when conflict happens, you often have a few options. You can end the relationship if you believe that's what is best for you. Or you can commit to working through the challenge together with your partner. Either way, you may choose to try the following five tips to navigate the situation.

Five tips to help you handle relationship conflicts

Although it is sometimes believed that not all couples experience conflict, conflict is often a common phenomenon when it comes to relationships. Here are some strategies for moving through it.

1.  Keep a balanced perspective

Couples may try to keep their disagreements and hard times to themselves. Especially in the age of social media, it can be challenging to remember that just because a conflict in the relationships of others is hidden, that doesn't necessarily mean it's non-existent.

Disagreeing from time to time can be normal. You and your partner may not align perfectly on everything, and you don't necessarily need to.

While conflict can feel uncomfortable, it may be necessary. As self-contradictory as it may seem, conflict may even be healthy. It may point to some element of your dynamic that needs to be changed for the benefit of your relationship. Additionally, research suggests that conflict resolution with a positive attitude and behaviors may be associated with lower stress and better individual health. Keeping it all in perspective may help you approach the situation with clear and realistic expectations.

However, there may be a difference between a typical quarrel between lovers and a more serious, or even dangerous, conflict. It’s important to watch for relationship red flags, such as unusually jealous or dishonest behavior, and take action if you find yourself in an abusive or unhealthy dynamic. Arguing or discussing conflicts every day may not be typical. You can also leave a relationship that's unhappy or unfulfilling to you.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

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2.  Don't shy away from communication

Communicating to resolve a conflict may not happen immediately. Some individuals feel they need time to cool off after a disagreement, which can be normal. In some cases, it may help to have written your feelings down ahead of time in order to get your thoughts in order before a conversation. However, communication may be required eventually. According to research, even committed relationships are not as successful if communication is not also present. 

Another study performed at the University of Portland found that communication avoidance was the most prevalent contributor to a conflict having no resolution. Open and honest communication with your partner can help you release negative feelings and work to find a constructive path forward. This may feel scary, but it may be more challenging to maintain a healthy relationship without it.

3.  Consider your boundaries

When embroiled in a conflict with a significant other, it may be difficult for some people to keep boundaries in mind. It might be beneficial to become familiar with your limits before you converse with your partner so that you feel prepared and confident in case of conflict.  

For example, if you desire time alone to process how you feel about something, you may want to set a boundary of taking time apart before discussing a conflict with your partner. 

In this case, you may tell your partner that you want a few hours alone to organize your thoughts after a significant disagreement. Consider setting other limits, such as asking them not to call, text, or communicate with you during this time. 

Consider what would allow you to handle conflict and take care of yourself. Ask your partner to do the same and find out if they have any boundaries they would like you to follow. 

Boundaries are often rules that you set for yourself and your belongings. Telling someone else to show you their computer's browser history or give you their phone during an argument may not be a boundary. In fact, it may fall under the category of controlling behavior. One study showed that going through someone’s phone—for example, their messages or photo album— without their consent could cause a relationship to end


4.  Commit to a common goal

Consider viewing a conflicting situation as you and your partner against the issue at hand rather than you against your partner. If you feel you're on the same team, you may feel better able to focus on the topic you disagree about. 

Finding and agreeing to a common goal can sometimes be challenging, especially if there's anger, hurt feelings, or a fundamentally different view of the conflict. In this case, try starting small with a broad goal, such as understanding the motive behind why both of you feel upset. 

When your partner tells you their reasoning, try to actively listen by letting them finish their statement before responding. When you respond, validate their experience and repeat what they said to them to show understanding. Ask them to do the same for you when it's your turn to speak. 

5.  Seek advice

Many individuals turn to family and friends when facing a conflict in their relationship. A close friend may be able to help you see new perspectives on your dynamic with your partner or give you advice based on their intimate knowledge of you from over the years.

You might also consider connecting with a therapist for advice. This can also be a useful way to get the emotions you’re feeling off your chest in a professional setting. Once you have released those feelings, you may be more able to problem-solve with your counselor and work through the conflict with your partner.

Online therapy for relationship challenges

More and more individuals and couples are turning to online relationship therapy for assistance in navigating conflict. Online therapy can be beneficial for couples who have busy work schedules and may otherwise find it difficult to attend counseling together in an in-person setting. You can meet with your therapist by videoconference, schedule a phone call, or text in the moment. Many people find that online therapy is also more affordable than traditional face-to-face therapy.

Various studies affirm the efficacy of online therapy as an effective tool for resolving relationship conflicts. In a recent study involving 60 partnered participants ages 21-69, the sample was divided into two groups -- one receiving face-to-face support and one receiving virtual support for relationship challenges. After six sessions and a three-month follow-up, it was determined that the therapeutic alliance ratings held equal between both groups and participants experienced similar improvements in relationship satisfaction, mental health, and other positive outcomes.



A trained mental health professional may be able to support you to see a situation objectively and can work with you to develop new skills and strategies like communication and conflict resolution. If you and your partner are at an impasse with the conflict, a couples counselor may also be able to help you make progress together.

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