Communicate to solve conflict for Healthy Relationship

As with anything, open communication is necessary when it comes to building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

And in a long-term relationship, calm, open, and constructive communication is essential when it comes to solving conflict since no interpersonal bond ever comes truly free from conflict.

“Stress can arise in relationships when partners experience conflicting goals, motives and preferences,” write Profs Nickola Overall and James McNulty in a recent study about communication during conflict.

The possible reasons for conflict in a romantic relationship can vary widely, and Profs Overall and McNulty cite unmet expectations, financial difficulties, the distribution of responsibilities, parenting styles, and jealousy, among others.

“Unresolved conflicts and the stress associated with conflict put even the most satisfying relationship at risk. Moreover, managing and resolving conflict is difficult, and can itself be a significant source of stress,” they note.

So what is the best way to communicate when it comes to solving conflicts in an intimate relationship?

According to the researchers, it depends. However, burying one’s feelings and misgivings, and brushing disagreements quickly under the carpet is unlikely to help, they say.

Profs Overall and McNulty suggest that it is crucial for couples first to evaluate the context in which the conflict has arisen in order to decide how best to address it.

When a serious issue is at stake, the researchers explain, it is important for both partners to express their opposing views and negotiate the direction of change.

However, if the couple is having disagreements about minor issues, or issues outside their control, it may be more helpful for them to acknowledge the problem but express mutual validation, affection, and forgiveness.

Psaila expressed a similar perspective to MNT. People who maintain healthy, happy relationships, he says, “say sorry and make reparation [when they acknowledge that they have done something hurtful].”

However, Psaila adds, they “do not hang on to secretive, hidden shame,” following a discordant situation.

“They learn from mistakes and know that awareness of their vulnerability is a strength. They can and will seek help and advice from trusted relatives, friends, mentors (even [trained] counselors).“

– Alex Psaila

Psaila also notes that people who want their relationship to thrive also show openness to receiving support from a professional therapist, not just when things go wrong, but to make sure they stay the course.