Do you and your partner know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to managing your conflict? You both may attempt to solve your problems or resolve conflict in a variety of ways, although sometimes it can seem that the things you try end up failing, even if they feel like a good idea in the moment. Sometimes, the strategies you use may even entrench you deeper into the problems you are trying to resolve. Your relationship with your partner can be better, but not if you are engaging in tactics that do not really work. Below are 13 of these strategies. Check in with yourself, and if these sound familiar, try something new or seek help!

  • 1. Keeping score. Keeping tally of who has more faults or is more “in the dog house” than the other is a breeding ground for criticism, contempt, blaming, shaming, and resentment. Your relationship is not a game with a winner and a loser, so don’t keep score.
  • 2. Holding back. When you hold in your feelings, they usually just build up and then explode later. In the end, this is not an effective strategy.
  • 3. Never going to bed angry. Although this old adage seems logical, in fact, following it may only dig you deeper into your conflict. It can often be much healthier to stop your argument and take some time to cool down and get a different perspective. Just promise one another to revisit the problem at an agreed upon time, even if that is the next day.
  • 4. Pursuing your partner. It can seem appealing to keep asking questions or continue to follow your partner around the house until he/she answers you, but this will likely only push your partner further away.
  • 5. Withdrawing from your partner. Similarly, shutting down is not usually a way to get your partner to stop the conversation. Just as you back off when pursued, your partner will probably engage you more when you withdraw.
  • 6. Waiting for the other person to apologize first. When you do this, it takes you and your partner out of the mindset that you are both on a team, working together to make your relationship better. When conflict arises, apologize for your part.
  • 7. Mind-reading. Have you ever thought or said, “If my partner loved me enough, he/she would know what I need!” As well as your partner knows and loves you, he/she cannot read your mind. Instead, you should expect to be open and honest about your experience, giving your partner a chance to respond to you in a way that addresses your needs.
  • 8. Frequent criticism. Piling on the complaints and criticisms about your partner will not produce lasting, meaningful change. In fact, this kind of behavior typically erodes love and connection, without which positive change will not likely happen.
  • 9. Saying that you are just “wired this way.” Although you may have some problems that are biological in nature, it can seem like an excuse when you use this information as a way to solve a conflict. Better would be to acknowledge your constraint and ask your partner to help you find ways to accommodate his/her needs in a way that also respects your limitations.
  • 10. Minimizing your partner’s perspective on the problem. Laughing it off, telling him/her it’s really not that big of a deal, or telling your partner to get over it may seem like quick ways to move past the problem, but really you are sending the message that your partner’s point of view does not matter to you.
  • 11. Expecting unconditional love. Telling your partner that you should be loved no matter what is not a healthy expectation. Love most certainly has conditions, and when they are not being met, you and your partner should be working hard to fix that.
  • 12. Needing to have the last word. Romantic relationships are not a zero sum game where one person wins and the other loses. If you are looking to get in the last word as a way to “beat” your partner, then you both lose. You are a team, and your goal should be to find ways to help your relationship win.
  • 13. Expecting different results when you do the same thing. At some point, the only way out of your situation is to recognize that what you have been doing has not been working. This breaks the cycle that perpetuates the problem and opens the door to new possibilities, and hopefully, effective solutions.

Contributed by Staff Therapist, Rachel Goldsmith