The Ten Commandments for Dealing with Conflict in Your Relationship

These guidelines for dealing with conflict in your relationship focus on simple attitudes and behaviors. Although we often forget to consider these things, they can really make the difference between resolving the conflict and making it worse.
The Ten Commandments for Dealing with Conflict in Your Relationship
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 29 July, 2022

As much as you’d like to get along with your significant other 100% of the time, sooner or later there’ll be conflict in your relationship. It’s inevitable, not to mention healthy. Conflict is an opportunity for analysis and decision-making.

Some couples seem to fight constantly, jumping from one conflict to the next, but feel that they love each other enough to stay together. Maybe the issue is that they just haven’t learned how to deal with relationship conflict.

There are some basic guidelines that you should keep in mind when dealing with conflict in your relationship. These recommendations are common sense and straightforward, but that doesn’t mean that they come naturally. In a relationship, it’s easy to behave illogically. That often leads to unresolved conflict. If you don’t follow these guidelines, whatever “solution” you come up with might not actually work for both partners.

Dealing with conflict in your relationship.

1. Calm down before you communicate or make decisions

Anger and impulsivity can damage your relationship very quickly.

However, you can train yourself to stay quiet and calm while you wait for your anger to pass. If you do that, you can avoid a lot of negative consequences.

2. Doubt

Not much is certain in this life. As such, it’s important to have a healthy skepticism about what you believe to be true. Don’t automatically believe your version of the story.

Let your partner explain their reasons, intentions, and actions. Open your mind to try and understand other points of view. Understanding is an investment with a very high rate of return.

3. Talk honestly about your feelings

One of the ways to deal with conflict in your relationship is to concentrate more on how you feel than on what you think. Talking about your feelings is liberating.

When you speak from the heart, you encourage understanding and strengthen your bond with your partner.

4. No yelling, no verbal abuse

Yelling and verbal abuse feed conflict and disrespect. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget how damaging it can be, but it has serious, long-term consequences.

Yelling and being insensitive gives the other person green light to do the same to you. Over time, this will push you apart and make you both angry.

5. Take responsibility for yourself

People tend to blame others for their actions. It’s easy to blame your partner for the way you act as if they control your behavior.

The better and more mature response is to take responsibility for the part you play in the conflict. After all, blaming the other person never solves anything.

6. Don’t play the victim

Self-victimization never helps, especially not when it comes to dealing with conflict in your relationship. When you play the victim, that means your partner becomes the tormentor. This false dichotomy distorts the reality of the situation. Things are never so black and white.

The victim-tormentor roles give one person imaginary powers and make the other the child. This only makes the situation more confusing.

7. Listen in silence

When you’re quiet, you can work on your internal dialogue. More importantly, good and productive conversations require silence.

Interrupting your partner will cause a lot of tension. It’s irritating, and it shows your desire to impose your will on the conversation. Try to limit your comments and give the other person plenty of time to speak.

8. Focus on solutions

It’s a lot simpler to deal with conflict in your relationship when you both have a positive and constructive attitude. That can be the difference between having a productive discussion about potential solutions and making both people feel worse. If the emphasis lies on problem-solving, then the conflict will end sooner rather than later.

A happy couple holding hands.

9. You can’t go back in time

If one or both of you keep a running list of grievances, you’ll have a hard time moving on and dealing with conflict. That’s because you tend to bring up past offenses as a defense mechanism for something that’s happening in the present.

You need a balance in order to deal with conflict in your relationship, and clinging to old wounds disturbs that balance.

10. Threats are a big deal

If your partner threatens to leave you or harm you, that’s psychological abuse. Those kinds of threats sometimes “work” at the moment to keep people in a relationship, but they’re never a real solution.

Threats in a relationship mean that one person wins and the other loses, which is probably the worst possible outcome of a negotiation.

It’s also important to let go of resentment. In a relationship, sometimes you forgive and sometimes you’ll be forgiven. Everyone makes mistakes and deserves an opportunity to make things right and to say “I’m sorry”.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Beck, A. T. (2009). Con el amor no basta: cómo superar malentendidos, resolver conflictos y enfrentarse a los problemas de pareja. Barcelona [etc]: Paidós, 2003 Barcelona [etc.]: Paidós, 2003.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.