3 Steps to Managing Conflict

3 Steps to Managing Conflict

Conflict is an opportunity to learn to love our partner better over time.

Julie Gottman

You’re navigating new challenges together each day.

On top of the demands and pressures that were already there.

Let’s be real:

Managing conflict as a couple is no easy task! 

Maybe that argument you had last night was your first, or maybe it was your fiftieth. Either way, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the tension between you and your partner– and set yourselves up for years of thriving together.

Today we’re sharing 3 tips for managing conflict:

1. Pay attention to what’s happening in your body.

As you and your partner are talking, tune in to your body to take note of what’s happening there. Is your heart rate starting to pick up speed? Shoulders hunching up towards your ears? Tummy swirling around uncomfortably? Fists balling up at your sides? It’s not uncommon to experience emotional “flooding” during times of conflict, and often your body will start sending you signals that things are getting out of hand.


When you notice that you’re starting to feel flooded, pause the conversation and ask to take a break. Take 30 minutes to catch your breath, get some space, and then come back when you’re feeling more grounded.  

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2. Listen to understand, not to “win”.

When we’re in a conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of the real goal. We get sidetracked and defensive, which leads us to respond with snorts and eye rolls, interrupt, and lash out at our partner with criticism and blame. And while it’s certainly tempting, responding in these ways is a surefire way to escalate an already tense interaction! Instead? Set aside the need to be right, and aim to understand– truly understand— where your partner is coming from.


Take turns speaking and listening. When your partner speaks, consciously release any tension you feel in your body and slow your breathing. Look them in the eye and offer them your full attention. Listen to understand their experience and, if you do need clarification, wait until they’ve finished before gently asking for it.    

3. Take ownership of what’s yours.

During instances of conflict, blame can become a polarizing issue. By letting go of the question, “Who’s at fault here?,” you EACH have the opportunity to accept responsibility for your role in the conflict. Practice accountability for everything you say and do during a conflict, and you might be surprised how it helps de-escalate the argument!


When you notice yourself responding in an unhelpful way (e.g., sighing heavily when you disagree with your partner), simply take ownership of it: “Hey. I know it makes it harder for you to open up when I exhale loudly like that…”. Note that you don’t have to use words like “fault,” “wrong,” or even “sorry” in order to take ownership of your role in a conflict.     


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Need some help managing conflict?