Couples Conflict: How Online Couples Therapy Can Help

By Nadia Khan|Updated August 3, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By April Brewer , DBH, LPC

When people enter a committed relationship, they bring all their past experiences, individual beliefs and values, family beliefs and values, future goals, sometimes children, ex-spouses, and present quirks along. Generally, in the beginning these differences do not seem so large, or else the two find themselves caught up in the newness and excitement of the relationship and do not wish to mar it by pointing out the faults and/or perceived “baggage” of the other. The danger to this is that resentments can form, and then the couple may find they are fighting over everything. Sometimes that ‘everything’ encompasses literally everything but the real source of conflict.

Potential Relationship Conflicts.

A common denominator in relationship conflicts is the inability to effectively communicate with your partner. But, before we explore communication skills, let identify some common conflicts that often arise in relationships:

  • Honesty
  • Pride & Shame
  • Hidden Agenda
  • Self-Blame
  • Power & Control
  • Finances
  • Getting Justice & Equality
  • Narcissism
  • Competitiveness
  • Deflecting Blame
  • Anger & Resentment
  • Revenge
  • Infidelity
  • Scapegoating

Do you and your partner fight fair?

When a conflict arises within your relationship, do you both come to a mutual resolution for the conflict, does it remain unresolved for various reasons, or does the conflict present at a later date during another disagreement because it remained unresolved from a prior conflict? There are barriers that interfere with effective conflict resolution, most often presenting when one has difficulty managing their emotions, which often cloud their judgement and ability to effectively communicate with the other. Here are a few examples to help you identify if you or your partner display unfairness when attempting to resolve conflicts that present in the relationship such as:

  • Inability to listen to the other, pattern of over talking the other person
  • Yelling or shouting to gain control over the conversation or person
  • Displaced frustration or anger, inability to identify if you are upset with your partner, the topic at hand, or something else that is unrelated
  • Use of degrading language and intimidation (you shouldn’t feel fearful of expressing yourself)
  • Inability to be accountable for your part in the conflict, always blaming the other
  • Inability to express your thoughts or feelings with words
  • Often getting off the topic at hand, bringing up “other problems” in the relationship rather than focus on the initial conflict or topic of discussion
  • Continue to argue with the other once you recognize that things are getting “heated” rather than take a “time-out.”
  • Refusing to honor the “time-out” request, attempting to resolve the conflict when your partner needs a break
  • Don’t try to gain an understanding of your partner’s perspective
  • Don’t try or refuse to compromise to come to a resolution

Now that we have noted quite a few common relationship conflicts experienced with couples lets further explore why they often don’t get addressed in the relationship, which eventually will intensify the conflicts, the inability to effectively communicate. When communicating with others it is very important to know what is your primary style of communication is. Three common communication styles are Passive, Assertive, and Aggressive.

Am I a passive communicator? Individuals who communicate in a passive manner often:

  • Prioritizes the needs of others before their own needs
  • Soft spoken/quiet
  • Lacks assertiveness/inability to express one’s own needs & wants
  • Allows others to take advantage of them, easily manipulated
  • Lacks confidence and may have low self esteem
  • Poor eye contact with others (looks away or down, when conversing or approaching others)

Am I an assertive communicator? Individuals who communicate in an assertive manner often:

  • Will advocate for themselves (express needs, wants, feelings, beliefs)
  • Will listen and not interrupt others while conversing
  • Will stand up for their or others beliefs and/or rights
  • Will display a confident tone while speaking
  • Will make & maintain good eye contact
  • Is willing to compromise and negotiate with others

Am I an aggressive communicator? Individuals who communicate in an aggressive manner often:

  • Uses criticism, dominance, & humiliation to control conversations
  • Speaks very loudly or in an overbearing mannerism
  • Becomes frustrated very easily
  • Disrespectful towards others
  • Will not listen to others/constantly interrupts others while talking
  • Unwilling to compromise/negotiate with others

Although your communication style may change in different situations and/or with different people, it is healthy to know when you should display your assertiveness. Now that you understand the various communication styles, it is time to put your assertiveness into practice into real-time situations in your daily life. If you believe you would benefit from gaining more insight into practicing assertiveness, gaining effective communication skills, or how to implement effective conflict resolutions skills in your relationship, the help is readily accessible and available on BetterHelp.com.

Time for Therapy

One of the greatest sources of conflict couples face is having enough quality time with one another. Carving out the time for a simple night out can lead to such a heated discussion that the couple end up not wishing to go out at all. Therefore, when the subject is broached regarding couples counseling, the same barriers regarding time can make it difficult to attend or be used as a justification to not attend couples counseling.

One of the other reasons couples may resist counseling is the fear of being exposed or “airing their dirty laundry” to a total stranger. Many couples fear that their partner will ‘tell” on them and that they may face embarrassment or judgment from the counselor and/or be “double teamed” by their partner and the counselor.

Online Options

Online couples therapy is one of the many ways to resolve conflict. It is a realistic flexible option which offers the means in which couples can meet together with the therapist on their schedule. As with individual online therapy, the couples can email their counselor, and schedule live video, phone, or text chat sessions. Even though time must be taken out of the day of the week to attend online appointments, it is often not nearly as stressful as arranging time away from the office, coordinating time off with your partner to attend the live counseling session, or getting a babysitter to look after the kids. Again, the option to engage in BetterHelp online couple’s therapy eliminates known barriers such as time, travel, and in some cases the more expensive option of attending in office couple’s therapy sessions.

Conclusion and Recommendation

One of the most popular online therapy services is BetterHelp.com. BetterHelp provides fully licensed and screened mental health professionals to include Psychologists, Professional Counselors, and Clinical Social Workers with varying areas of expertise. Additionally, rather than paying for each visit or communication, there is one flat monthly fee for unlimited communication with the therapist. Often, the monthly fee is less than one session with a traditional provider. With BetterHelp.com you decide how long and how often therapy is needed, and there are no long-term contracts. Sessions are strictly confidential, and because of the low fee structure, the cost is less than a co-payment per visit in many cases.

Given that the most popular excuses for not seeking couples therapy are time and logistics, BetterHelp.com is a simple solution for overcoming these barriers. If you are looking for flexible options and think online therapy could be a good fit for both you and your partner and your lifestyles, you are welcome to further explore BetterHelp as a viable option to meet your service needs.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What are the top 5 conflict problems for couples?

  1. Money

Money may be the most common source of conflict in a relationship. Disagreements are common, especially when the two people in the marriage or partnership don’t have the same financial goals or habits. One of the partners may be a saver, while the other partner is primarily a spender. One partner may want to make a major purchase, like buying a house, while the other may prefer to spend their money on luxury vacations.

In addition, sometimes one or even both partners have never learned anything about money management. They may bounce checks, fail to pay the bills or run credit cards to the limit. Situations like this can lead to bitter disagreements, with one person not knowing how to do better and the other frustrated and feeling insecure.

In the end, an unavoidable argument may arise that is so destructive to the relationship that it ends. In other cases, the two people may stay in the relationship even though it is left unchanged, and both are miserable. In a relationship like this, both relationship counseling, as well as financial education and counseling can help.

  1. Sex and intimacy

Couples often have arguments about sex and intimacy. A common source of argument is that both people don’t have the same sex drive. One may want sex every day, while the other only wants to have physical intimacy once a week or so. This leads to multiple arguments, as one person is trying to fulfill their needs while the other feels pressured to do something they don’t want to do.

The other side of intimacy is sharing thoughts, memories, and feelings that are deeply personal. If the relationship is all on a surface level, there’s a kind of disconnectedness that one or both parties don’t want. They want to be closer, but the other is shutting them out of their inner life.

  1. Career conflicts

To many people, careers are extremely important. Others just want a job they can go to, earn money, and forget about at the end of the day. A conflict can arise if the two have a disagreement about how much of the couple’s time and energy should be devoted to achieving career success.

Another example of career disputes is when one person wants to move to another location to follow a career opportunity, and the other one disagrees. This can cause major upheavals in relationships until they learn to resolve conflict and decide what they will do.

  1. Chores

After work, dealing with children, and other adult duties, many times people in relationships will find themselves in a conflict about who should take care of household chores. Maybe neither of them wants to do the chores, but they both want to live in a clean and tidy home.

Chore disputes are sometimes related to a traditional vs. more modern opinion about who should be in charge of chores. This situation can start with chore distribution and lead to many other types of conflict within the relationships. While there really is no right or wrong answer about who should do chores in a home, the two people will be in conflict until they manage to have a successful conflict resolution.

  1. Kids

Raising children presents extraordinary challenges in relationships. For one couple, the problem might be that they got used to being together on their own before the kids came along. For another, it might be that they had children before they got together, and they developed incompatible parenting styles.

A partner might be a strict disciplinarian while the other is more lenient. One might want to give the kids a lot of freedom and responsibility, while the other one just wants them to be kids for a while. In most cases, neither is really a wrong answer, but until the conflict is solved, the partners will disagree about how childrearing should be managed in their homes. In the meantime, the kids may end up in the middle of the dispute.

In this case, couples therapy should probably come first, but family therapy might be needed next. However, with a lot of listening, you can resolve your differences peacefully and come to a better understanding of what you need to do to talk out your problems as they occur.

What causes conflict between couples?

Hurt in relationships is mainly caused because the partners don’t want to or know how to deal with differences of opinion or behavior that are different from what they would choose.

It’s not that there are differences between the two people. That is always true, even in a successful relationship. The real problem is that until they learn and practice ways to deal with the differences, they will fight, hurt each other, get upset, and the discord will be left unchanged.

The solution might be to go to counseling together. Couples therapists help their clients get to the source of the conflict. Then, they teach their clients how to express themselves assertively, practice listening, and sort out the conflict together. They may give you tips on how to fulfill your own desire without ignoring your partner’s. Because therapists typically use methods based on scientific research, these methods are proven by research and work very well for most couples.

Both partners win because they now know how to improve their lives with each other. By learning good communication, they can deal with the fact that they will never agree on everything. They will learn to work through their disputes and celebrate each other for their uniqueness.

What is the most common source of conflict for couples?

What are examples of conflicts in relationships?

What are the top 3 things couples argue about?

What are the 7 sources of conflict?

What is normal relationship conflict?

The two people each make their point. They express how they feel in assertive ways. They don’t listen to find out how the other person is wrong. Instead, they look for ways to come together in mutual agreement. Through the course of the resolution, they think of how to serve the other person’s needs as well as their own. At the same time, they offer each other encouragement and remind each other that this dispute is not a sign of failure.

How do you resolve a couple conflict?

Suppose your partner wants to fight with you over something that is important to you. Although you don’t want to engage that way, you don’t want to just accept something that makes you angry. You want to discuss it in a productive way – a way that will bring you closer to your partner.

Remember, your partner is a good friend. Talk to your partner, and don’t forget to listen throughout. Express your feelings and let your loved one express theirs. Offer an idea of how to come to a resolution. Be giving but don’t be passive. Try to work together to figure out the matter in a way that is acceptable to both of you.

However, if you can’t find a way to come to an agreement, you may not have the communication skills you need to do it. In that case, you and your loved one may want to go to couples therapy. There, you can learn new skills and work out old problems that have been left unchanged for months or years. There is hope, and a therapist may help you achieve your goals.

How much conflict is normal in relationships?

What are the 4 types of conflict in a relationship?

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