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Strategies for Navigating Conflict in Your Partnership

Published June 22, 2020
Arguing with your spouse can be stressful, especially if you are both hurling insults at one another and refusing to listen. Whether you end up working on saving your marriage or you decide to pursue a divorce, there are several ways you can make disagreements easier on yourselves.

When you enter into a marriage or long-term relationship with another person, you are hopeful that you will be able to handle the ups and downs of the partnership. While there will be moments of connection and joy, there will also be moments of tension and even outright conflict. So, what are some strategies you can turn to when communication becomes difficult and you feel your relationship heading towards divorce? Whether you are hoping to save your marriage or you’ve decided to pursue a divorce and part ways, here are a few tips you can use to reduce tension, ward off conflict, and promote constructive collaboration.

Tip #1: Avoid Personal Attacks

When we become angry with someone, our first impulse may be to lash out at them and criticize their behavior. However, this rarely results in constructive communication and it can end up making the situation worse. Instead, try to focus on specific actions that caused you harm or irritation, and try to frame your conversation using “I” statements. For instance, rather than shouting, “You are never romantic,” try saying, “I felt unimportant to you when our anniversary slipped your mind.” By keeping the focus on how your unhappiness or anger is tied to the specific actions of your partner, you can keep the conversation fairly neutral and give the other person concrete examples of behaviors or patterns to recognize and, if possible, work on in the future.

Tip #2: Know How to React Calmly and Constructively

If your spouse begins to attack you, there are several ways you can respond. Of course, shouting right back at them is rarely helpful, and it may lead you into more chaos. If you are attacked, take a deep breath and then try to diffuse the attack by asking calm questions. Sometimes, simply saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Why do you think my behavior causes you such frustration?” can get your partner to pause and reflect. By showing that you are genuinely empathetic and curious about their emotions, you are allowing each other to have an open and honest conversation. It’s also perfectly fine to take a breath and ask for some space while you both cool off before you continue your discussion.

Tip #3: Accept Responsibility When Appropriate

Once you and your partner have aired your issues with each other and you recognize that your behavior could have been better or more supportive, make sure you step up and take responsibility. A well-placed and sincere, “I’m sorry” goes a long way in helping to repair a relationship. However, only apologize or take responsibility for actions that are truly your fault; don’t feel pressured to apologize for everything just to make the other person happy. If you do, you may end up feeling resentful and worried that your partner will continue to blame you and take advantage of you. Own your mistakes, but don’t own theirs as well.

Moving Forward Together or On Your Own

Sometimes, you and your partner find that you have enough of a foundation to rebuild your marriage and move forward together. Other couples find that they simply want to walk into the future on their separate paths, so they end up pursuing a divorce. No matter what you and your partner decide, the dedicated and compassionate divorce and family law attorneys at Lee Tyler Family Law, P.C. are here to help you achieve your goals. Call (503) 233-8868 today to get started.

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