Let's face it: Conflict is a way of life.
It's all around us in romantic relationships, business partnerships and these days most obviously on a national level in places like Egypt, Tunisia and right here in our own backyard. Differences and disagreements are a natural part of life, but ineffective coping skills cause you to deal with those disagreements in hurtful ways that eat away at your relationship. While individual counseling or marital counseling can help, there are a few tried-and-true methods you can use to nip nastiness in the bud.
Don't Invalidate Feelings
This is a common sin for men, belittling or dismissing how a woman feels, points out John Gray, author of "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus." However, any of us can be guilty of it on any given day. Maybe you're distracted by things you need to accomplish or you're in a bad mood. In some cases, you may just not be able to relate or empathize with how your partner feels. The end result is that you make an insensitive remark that leads to the mother of all wars. In these situations, it's best to just listen, be a sounding board for your partner. Asking more questions based on what your partner has already said might help you to understand your partner's feelings, or at the very least, let her know youre listening.
Stop Holding Grudges
At its core, holding a grudge is simply not forgiving your partner for some real or imagined wrongdoing. Even when you love someone, forgiving and forgetting doesn't necessarily come easily. A lack of forgiveness prolongs conflict and causes you to continue blaming your partner and making them a target for your disappointment, frustration or rage. Holding a grudge also takes a lot of energy that you could otherwise be devoting to improving your relationship and nurturing your partner so he gives back to you in kind.
To get rid of grudges, think about what it's costing you to hold on to it. Communicate with your partner about how you feel about what has happened without using blaming words or inflammatory language. Think of your part in what has occurred to cause the grudge and then both of you should find solutions to prevent the action or behavior from occurring in the future so there's some finality. After all, it's much harder to forgive wrongdoing if it continues to happen. Also, practice forgetting; sounds strange, but it is possible. Simply commit to blocking out the wrongdoing whenever it pops into your head.
Stop Taking things Personally
It may come as a surprise, but it's not always about you. For instance, your partner has a bad day at work, makes an off-the-cuff or thoughtless remark. You believe it was intended to hurt or blame you and you fly into a rage. With those closest to us, we let our guards down and feel comfortable saying things we'd never say to a stranger. The flip side is that we're also allowed more room to pry in order to figure out what's going on with a loved one. Asking questions in a calm, reasonable manner is a much better approach than flying off the handle or sulking. Once you know more about what's happened, you'll be in a better position to respond. If your partner isn't up for a chat at that moment, simply let her know you'll be there to listen when she's ready to talk. Prodding when she's not ready can escalate the situation.
If your relationship has suffered from years of poor conflict resolution, it will be difficult to turn things around on your own. A psychologist or relationship counselor can help you and your partner get to the root of your conflicts and to build skills to resolve conflicts more amicably. Counseling can also help you develop more confidence so you're less likely to take disagreements personally and to act out in a passive-aggressive manner.