Relationship Conflicts: 7 Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Romantic relationships are impossible without conflicts. No matter how close you and your partner are — at some point, you might disagree on something. That’s where your relationships will have to pass a test.
Some relationship conflicts may not affect your relationships negatively. Moreover, conflicts might even help you improve your relationships because a conflict is a perfect occasion to communicate your expectations and tell your partner about things that bother you. However, some conflicts may damage relationships.
A confrontation with your loved one is always a challenge because it causes stress and can have negative consequences for both your and your partner’s emotional and physical well-being.
Another difficult thing about conflicts is that they may arise for different reasons and therefore are difficult to predict. For example, many conflicts between couples happen because of the differences in personality, taste, style, etc.
The complexity of relationship conflicts is a reason why resolving a problem often becomes impossible without a mediator. And it may be difficult to understand each other’s feelings without the help of a therapist from Calmerry.
The root cause of most relationship conflicts is the lack of understanding. In turn, our ability to understand each other greatly depends on communication. Effective communication can save even the most complicated relationships.
In this article, we will consider some of the most common mistakes that couples make and share some tips that will help you fix them.
1. Acting defensively
Sometimes, when your partner mentions a sensitive subject, you may feel tempted to immediately get defensive. This is a counterproductive strategy because in this case, you start to deny what your partner says, without actually trying to understand them.
A defensive approach can make a couple go back and forth blaming each other and arguing without trying to figure out the problem and find a solution.
When acting defensively, we immediately disagree with the other person, and a disagreement cannot help solve a conflict.
Moreover, if you immediately disagree with what your partner says, you will downplay the importance of the problem or even completely deny that such a problem exists, in the first place.
Obviously, such an approach stops couples from finding a common ground and listening to each other.
2. Avoiding conflict
Some people tend to avoid conflict until it’s too late. Avoiding a conflict in a relationship is rather a natural response because one may be afraid of raising the tension and damaging the relationship.
However, avoidance might eventually result in a much more emotionally charged argument. When an unhappy person is no longer able to stay silent, they may express all of their concerns at once, often in a hurtful and aggressive way.
As a result, the tactic aimed at minimizing stress backfires and leads to a more destructive confrontation.
It’s easier to deal with minor issues as they arise instead of discussing all the problems at once when relationships reach the tipping point and one of the partners experiences extreme frustration.
Effective and productive communication depends on many factors, one of which is timing. Don’t wait for too long to express your concerns. To avoid stress and minimize the destructive potential of the argument, talk to your loved one with respect and focus on the subject matter rather than their personality.
3. Making it personal
One of the worst things couples can do is make arguments personal. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget about the subject and switch the conflict to criticizing your partner as a person. Such a transition may even happen unintentionally because of the word choice.
For instance, one may say “you’re driving me mad all the time” instead of saying “when you do this, you hurt my feelings.”
The first sentence doesn’t really explain the problem but simply expresses frustration and puts blame on the partner. If you want to find a solution, be specific.
Instead of just criticizing your partner and their personality, think of what can be helpful at this moment, and explain how your partner’s actions impact you. This way, you’ll focus on the issue and create a basis for a productive conversation.
4. Using generalizations
Another common mistake is making generalizations, such as “you never” or “you always.” If you’re in long-term relationships or marriage, overgeneralizing your partner’s behavior can be especially easy because you may think that you know everything about them.
However, the best solution is to avoid words like “always” and “never” because they make the argument less specific. Besides, bringing up problems that happened in the past might only escalate the conflict without giving you two a chance to find a solution.
To avoid overgeneralizations, reflect on what you’re going to say and think of whether or not it’s actually true. If something happened more than once, that doesn’t mean that it always happens. Similarly, if something happens rarely, don’t say that it never happens. Blowing things out of proportion will only raise the tension and make your conflict more emotional, minimizing the chances for a positive outcome.
5. Starting an argument at the wrong moment
As we’ve already mentioned above, it’s important to not only communicate your thoughts in the right way but also to do it at the right moment. If your partner is busy or if they’re overwhelmed with other issues that have nothing to do with your relationships, it’s definitely not the right moment to start a tough conversation.
Another common mistake is starting an argument after a few drinks or during the moments that were supposed to bring joy. If you and your loved one are having fun or sitting at a dinner table with friends or family members, don’t ruin this moment by bringing up a difficult topic.
The best solution is to plan your conversations ahead so that both of you can approach them with the right mindset, being ready for a constructive discussion.
Sometimes, people try “psychoanalyzing” their partners, assuming that they know their partners’ thoughts and feelings. Such assumptions are usually negative and based on faulty interpretations of the other person’s actions.
For example, one may say that their partner denies intimacy because of being passive-aggressive, or that they forgot something because they don’t care.
If you really want to understand the motivations behind your loved one’s actions, the best solution is to talk to a therapist. Don’t use your assumptions as arguments because you will only create misunderstandings.
When dealing with a conflict, you should avoid escalation, and the easiest way to escalate the conflict is to ignore your partner’s unique perspective. We all have different reasons and motivations, and the best solution is to ask your partner about their feelings and thoughts.
7. Trying to win the argument
A conflict in a relationship can quickly get out of control if you decide to prove your partner wrong. Ask yourself, do you want to win the argument, or do you want to solve the problem?
Quite often, achieving both goals is impossible because both of you might be right or wrong. If your loved one doesn’t agree with you, don’t take it personally. Listen to them and look for a compromise. Both of you may express valid opinions, and there’s no point in arguing if you two don’t try to find a common ground.
How to Fix Common Communication Mistakes
If something bothers you, focus on it and don’t turn a conversation with your partner into pointless criticism. You may want to discuss multiple issues, but the best solution is to bring one issue at a time to avoid escalation. The more specific your criticism, the more likely you’ll be able to find a solution.
Show some trust
If your partner criticizes you, don’t take it as a personal attack. Try to understand the problem and don’t be judgmental. Healthy relationships are always based on mutual trust so keeping it must be one of your priorities.
Prepare for difficult conversations
To make sure that the conflict won’t get out of control, talk to your partner and plan your conversation. Choose the right moment so that both of you can dedicate all your attention to each other and have a productive conversation instead of an emotionally charged argument.
Talk to a relationship counselor or therapist
A mental health professional can help you understand each other, your feelings, and what’s going on so that you two can find an optimal solution. Of course, couple counseling may take a lot of time.
However, everyone can talk to a therapist online, with no need to meet in-person. Online counseling enables you to schedule sessions according to your needs and get professional help from virtually anywhere.
Relationships conflicts are unavoidable. If you want to improve your relationship and make it comfortable for both of you, the main thing is to ensure effective communication. Listen to your partner and make them feel heard.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to distance yourself from your emotions and focus on the subject matter, but it will be much easier to do if you and your partner discuss your problems with a couples therapist.
Online counseling is an accessible and flexible solution that can help couples make difficult conversations productive, without turning them into a blame game.
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in healthcare since 2017. She mainly treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, grief, identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience is focused on individual and group counseling. Follow Kate here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-skurat-5348381b9/