Healthy or Unhealthy
is no such thing as a relationship without conflict.
Conflict is a part of life. It exists as a
reality of any relationship, and is not necessarily bad. In fact a
relationship with no apparent conflict may be unhealthier than one
with frequent conflict. Conflicts are critical events that can weaken
or strengthen a relationship. Conflicts can be productive, creating
deeper understanding, closeness and respect, or they can be
destructive, causing resentment, hostility and divorce. How the
conflicts get resolved, not how many occur, is the critical factor in
determining whether a relationship will be healthy or unhealthy,
mutually satisfying or unsatisfying, friendly or unfriendly, deep or
shallow, intimate or cold. Conflicts run all the way from minor
unimportant differences to critical fights. There are conflicts of
needs, wants, preferences, interests, opinions, beliefs and values.
of Conflict Resolution:
||Avoiding or denying the existence of a conflict.
||Many people prefer to give in rather than struggle through the
||Some people get mad and blame the other person.
||Others are competitive and have to win. They use their power
and influence to control and get their way.
||Some appear to compromise but are subtly manipulative in trying
to win more ground.
||A few people can control their anger, competitive, I-give-up feelings
and self- serving tendencies and genuinely seek a fair, optimal
solution for both parties. This is a creative integrative
Types of Healthy Solutions:
Win-win. Most conflicts are in areas that have more than two
alternatives. If you do not like the choice your partner wants, and
your partner does not like your choice, with a little more effort you
might be able to find another alternative that you both like and want.
No lose. When you cannot find an alternative that you both
want, look for an option that is acceptable to both of you, or
negotiate an agreeable compromise. Neither gets everything he/she
wanted, but each gets enough to be satisfied.
||Win-lose equally. When the conflict is over an issue that has
two choices, one person will get what he/she wants and the other will
not. There will be a winner and a loser. If you are fair with each
other and generally half the time each gets your own way; it will be
easier for each of you when you donít. The loser will trust that
next time or the time after that he/she will be the winner.
Conflict Resolution is easy to understand intellectually,
but not as easy to apply and use consistently. It does however become
easier once the skills and trust are developed. Both partners must
view their conflicts as a problem to be solved by them.
It isnít getting the best deal for me; it is finding
the best solution for us. They each must actively
participate and make the effort and commitment to work hard together
to find solutions that are fair and acceptable to both.
If you disregard, minimize or invalidate your
spouseís position, or if you must always get your way, you will
damage your relationship. Your lack of sensitivity, consideration and
respect of your spouseís position will cause hurt and smoldering
resentment. If fear and power is used to win, the relationship will
be mortally wounded.
If you are just a willing giver constantly
trying to keep your spouse happy by satisfying his/her needs and
avoiding conflict, you will also damage your relationship. You will
inadvertently teach your spouse to be insensitive to your needs and
self-serving at your expense. Your self-esteem and self-worth will
deteriorate. Resentment will fester, poisoning you to the
Needed for Healthy Conflict Resolution:
Start with the right frame of mind. Approach
the conflict as two equals working together to solve a problem.
Donít be so caught-up with your immediate want that you lose
sight of and forget your more important want of having a long, healthy
relationship. If you are too angry or hurt to be able to control your
feelings and remain respectful let yourself calm down before dealing
with the issue.
Handling a conflict with a loved one, or
someone you want to have a good, long-term relationship with is
different than negotiating with someone who doesnít care about your
needs, such as a used-car salesman. With a loved one you have to be
concerned with his/her best interests. You both should be open, honest
and remain respectful, not deceptive, manipulative or disrespectful.
Mutual trust is a necessary core issue in a healthy, long-term
relationship and neither partner should do anything to weaken it.
Having a negative, distrustful attitude is
detrimental to this process: believing you must win the
argument or otherwise lose face is a bad attitude; feeling superior or
being hard nosed and feeling inferior or being a soft touch are also harmful approaches.
of Healthy Conflict Resolution:
||Identify the problem or issues. Have a discussion to understand
both sides of the problem, conflicts, needs and preferred outcomes.
Clarify to each other exactly what the conflict or problem involves.
This is the initial stage where you say what you want and you listen
to what your partner wants. The goal at this stage is for you each to
clearly express what you each want and to understand what the other
wants. Use I message language and avoid the blaming you
messages. Also use your active listening
skills when you listen to your partnerís side.
||Generate several possible solutions. This is the creative
integrative part. Drawing upon the things you both agree on and upon
your shared goals and interests, look for several possible
alternatives that might solve the problem. Avoid evaluating and
judging each idea until it looks as though no more are going to be
suggested. This is a brainstorming approach.
||Evaluate the alternative solutions. Consider each suggested
solution and eliminate those that are not acceptable to either of you.
Keep narrowing them down to one or two that seem best for you both.
In this stage you both must be honest and be able to say things like,
"I wouldnít be happy with that," or "I donít think
that would be fair for me."
||Decide on the best solution. Select the alternative that is
mutually acceptable to both of you. Make certain there is a mutual
commitment to the decision.
||Implement the solution. It is one thing to arrive at a
decision, another to carry it out. Sometimes it is necessary to talk
about how it is to be implemented. Who is responsible to do what and
evaluation. Not all mutually agreed upon solutions turn out to
be as good as initially expected. Make it a routine to ask your
partner how the solution is working and how he/she feels about it.
Something may have been overlooked, misjudged, or something
unexpected may have occurred. Both of you should have the
understanding that decisions are always open for revision, but
that modifications have to be mutually agreed upon, as was the
||Not discussing with your partner the method used to resolve your
||Discovering too late that more information was needed, e.g., "I
should have placed the order sooner, now they are sold out."
||Being too invested in getting your way, or making extreme demands, and
therefore not being able to be flexible enough to be fair with your
||Forgetting that there are usually several ways of doing things and
that your own reality is not the only reality. We humans have a
consistent tendency to believe that we are right and are being
reasonable. You will be much more effective if you are willing to see
the other personís view.
||Focusing too much on what you could lose and not enough on what you
both could gain.
||Believing the other person must lose for you to win.
||Bringing in additional issues before resolving the one you started..
If you both stay true to your partner and
true to yourself you should have a good, healthy relationship.