- Se'Lena Wingfield, Ph.D.
Five Healthy Habits to Manage Conflict in Relationships
Every relationship experiences conflict. Here are five healthy habits that you and your significant other can practice to help manage those occurrences:
1. Practice self-awareness.
Consider if there are ways that you are contributing to conflict. Know your triggers, pay attention to your reactions, and practice self-regulation. Your reactions or responses may be valid, but take a moment to pay attention to them to be sure.
2. Give grace for miscommunication or misunderstanding.
This includes you. Learning to forgive yourself and others for a misunderstanding is a valuable skill. It’s essential to ask for forgiveness, change your behavior, and view that misunderstanding as a teachable moment that contributes to growth going forward. If the behavior has been changed, don't continue to beat yourself or your spouse up for it. (ex. Someone said they would lock up the house but didn't.)
3. Embrace (or at least find a way to tolerate) harmless differences.
Understand that your spouse is an individual. They may have little idiosyncracies that bring them comfort (ex. brushing their teeth in the shower) or joy (ex. eating dessert before dinner). When possible, ignore or embrace it. It always feels better when we can be ourselves in relationships.
4. Be open to uncomfortable discussions.
Being patient, honest, and thorough when talking through issues that disturb us can provide an understanding, a resolution, and growth. Also, be mindful to listen so that you can get the answers you need.
5. Try not to project how you feel onto their behavior.
Projection is the mental process by which people attribute what is in their own minds to others. For example, sometimes we think someone doesn’t like or value us, so we unknowingly filter everything they say and do through that lens. When they say or do something they believe is harmless (ex. forget to pick up Q-Tips), we see it as confirmation that they do not like or value us. An emotional outburst due to projection can leave the other person very confused and possibly hurt. In truth, in some relationships it is possible that our partner may not value us. It is still important to know that we are not projecting.