Conflict Resolution For Relationships: Methods To Help

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC
Updated March 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Conflicts can show up in almost every aspect of a relationship. Common causes of couples conflict include differing core values, opposing attachment styles, miscommunication, or differing views about the world and self. Knowing the right conflict resolution strategies and finding a middle ground may be helpful in maintaining a successful relationship.

When it comes to healing conflict within a relationship, it may be helpful to look at the relationship as a project you and your partner are working on together as a team. In relationships, one partner is rarely wrong during conflicts, and if you see each other as opponents of a never-ending battle, you may find it more challenging to come to compromises or conclusions.

Not every couple experiences the same types of conflicts. However, many couples can benefit from using online couples counseling or other strategies to reduce fights, arguments, and other concerns within their relationships. Licensed marriage and family therapists can provide support through live video sessions or virtual therapy sessions, offering the same professional guidance as in-person sessions to promote healthy communication.

How to examine relationship strife

To figure out where your conflict stems from, it can be helpful to first identify the topics that come up frequently. For example, you may find yourself arguing with your partner about them not doing the dishes.

You can then look at your partner’s behavior and ask yourself what the underlying feeling behind this concern might be. Are you worried your partner is not carrying their weight? Do you feel that they are irresponsible? Do you wish they would be cleaner? Do you feel that they do not respect you?

Knowing the thought process behind your concerns may help you solve them when it comes time to communicate with your partner. Additionally, couples counseling or therapy can offer guidance for healthy relationships using various conflict resolution techniques. Licensed therapists can often provide online counseling or online couples therapy, making it more convenient for you and your partner to work together on improving communication skills and addressing the root causes of conflicts.

Article Visual

You're not alone

Understand the reasoning behind disagreements

When attempting to resolve conflicts, there’s not always a clearly defined right or wrong answer; it's more about the circumstances surrounding the issue and how you communicate effectively. Do you and your partner come to a mutual resolution for the conflict? Or does it remain unresolved and show up at a later date?

Some barriers can encroach on your ability to resolve conflict. For example, if one or both partners' experience difficulty managing emotions, communicating with others, and emotional thinking, these factors may impact whether a conflict is solved or not. There are several methods of working through these concerns, such as emotionally focused therapy or couples counseling.

It may help you to identify these barriers by name and seek guidance from a family therapist or marriage counseling professional. They can offer individual therapy, online marriage counseling, or premarital counseling to help you navigate and overcome these challenges. Therapy sessions can provide you and your partner with the tools needed to address conflict effectively and strengthen your partnership—which can be a win-win situation for those in intimate relationships.

Here are a few examples of common barriers to conflict resolution:

  • Difficulty with active listening
  • Yelling or shouting to gain control over the conversation
  • Displaced frustration or anger
  • An inability to identify why you are upset or feel frustrated
  • Use of degrading language, name-calling, and intimidation
  • An inability to be accountable for your part in the conflict, assigning blame and assuming your romantic partner has the “wrong answer”
  • An inability to express feelings or thoughts with words
  • Often getting off-topic or bringing up other problems rather than focusing on the initial topic of discussion
  • Continuing to argue when you feel angry instead of taking space
  • Refusing to honor the "time-out" request and attempting to resolve the conflict when your partner needs a break
  • Not trying to gain an understanding of your partner's perspective, or recognizing differences in how you approach situations
  • Refusing to compromise or come to a solution
  • Not setting boundaries or respecting your partner's boundaries

Know your communication style

When communicating with others, it may help you to know your communication style. The three most common communication styles are:

  • Passive Communication
  • Assertive Communication
  • Aggressive Communication

Article Visual

Am I a passive communicator?

Individuals who communicate passively may:

  • Prioritize the needs of others before their own
  • Speak with a soft or quiet voice
  • Struggle with eye contact
  • Have difficulty expressing their emotions, needs, and wants
  • Allow others to take control of a situation or decision
  • Communicate through hidden context behind other statements or non-verbal body language
  • Lack of confidence or self-esteem

Am I an assertive communicator?

Individuals who communicate assertively may:

  • Advocate actively for their partner’s needs, wants, feelings, and beliefs
  • Listen and do not interrupt others while conversing
  • Stand up for their boundaries and respect the boundaries of others
  • Display a confident tone while speaking
  • Have the willingness to compromise and negotiate with others
  • Leave a situation when they are threatened

Am I an aggressive communicator?

Individuals who communicate aggressively may:

  • Use criticism, dominance, and humiliation to control conversations
  • Speak very loudly or interrupt the other person
  • Become frustrated very easily
  • Be disrespectful of others
  • Disregard partner boundaries
  • Not try to understand their partner's side
  • Have difficulty compromising/negotiating with others

Social psychology typically considers the assertive style the healthiest form of communication, as it usually takes into account the needs and feelings of all parties and allows for productive problem-solving and long-term conflict resolution.

Resolution strategies within relationships

In every healthy relationship, understanding how to handle conflict constructively is key to long-term happiness and stability. When partners can communicate openly and practice active listening, they can lay the groundwork for resolving arguments healthily. Here are some potential conflict resolution strategies to try:

  • Active listening: Listen to understand, not just to respond. This may help build empathy and reduce misunderstandings.
  • Handling the small stuff: Don't let minor issues accumulate. Resolve arguments early to prevent them from becoming major problems.
  • Spending time together: Quality time can often strengthen your bond and improve mutual understanding.
  • Agree to disagree: Accept that it's okay to have different opinions. Respectful disagreement can be a sign of a mature, healthy relationship.
  • Seeking solutions together: Work as a team to find compromise or solutions that satisfy both partners.
Conflict resolution in relationships isn't about finding the one solution that works every time; it's about knowing the different strategies that can work depending on the situation. Sometimes, this means agreeing to disagree on matters that aren't deal-breakers. Other times, it's about finding common ground and compromising.

Couples therapy for conflict

Therapy may seem scary for couples who find that conflicts and anger occur frequently; they may have some internal judgments about the types of people who go to therapy. Yet, family therapy or marriage therapy is one of the most common sources for learning good communication strategies that may foster healthy connections for those who experience conflict. Studies show that 70% of those who seek out couples therapy experience a positive impact on resolving conflicts.

One of the other reasons couples may resist counseling is the fear of opening up about their concerns to a stranger. Many couples have at least one person who fears that their partner will lie about them or that the family therapists may team up with their partner against them. However, a clinical psychologist or therapist is trained to remain neutral and professional when people disagree.

Therapists are there to help you and your partner talk openly and maintain a healthy relationship. They may offer worksheets and activities to work on conflict resolution techniques at home. Some online couples therapists will meet with you one-on-one before a therapy session to get a better idea of your personal feelings outside of couples therapy as well. This can include online premarital counseling or online couples counseling, making therapy more reachable and convenient for busy couples.

Online therapy options

Article Visual

You're not alone

However, online therapy is often more affordable than traditional therapy, with a price similar to the copay of some insurance plans. Many providers even accept insurance, making therapy more affordable and available to a wider range of individuals. However, it’s important to check with your provider to understand your benefits.

Compared to traditional therapy, online therapy is a flexible option that allows couples to meet with a therapist on their schedule. The couples can send emails to their counselor and schedule live video, phone, or chat messaging sessions.

Even though time must be taken out of the day of the week to attend online appointments, it may not be as stressful as arranging time away from home, coordinating time off with your partner to attend therapy, or getting a babysitter to look after the kids. Instead, online therapy may allow couples to spend time with a therapist in a comfortable and familiar environment.

Online therapy with BetterHelp

One of the most popular online therapy services is BetterHelp. BetterHelp provides fully licensed and screened mental health professionals with varying areas of expertise including those who specialize in marriage counseling or resolving family issues. 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 in-person provider.

Studies show that teletherapy is as effective as traditional therapy for treating various concerns. If you're hoping to attend therapy with your partner simultaneously, BetterHelp also offers a sister company called Regain which has the same benefits as BetterHelp to trained marriage and couples' counselors.

If you are looking for flexible options and think online therapy could be a good fit for you, your partner, and your lifestyles, consider BetterHelp or Regain. All you need to get started is an email address.

Takeaway

Finding relief from relationship conflicts is possible. If you're ready to see what online therapy has to offer for facilitating conflict resolution in your relationship, take the first step today or try out couples therapy with Regain.
Build healthy relationship habits with a professional
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started