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5 Conflict Resolution Tips for Couples

family, therapy, couples, spouse

Marriage and Family Therapy professionals like those educated at NCU work with families and couples to help them navigate a wide range of behavioral and relationship problems. Quite often, couples from all walks of life experience problems that can be solved using certain techniques. However, if couples aren't sure where to begin the process, the miscommunication can lead to a breakup or divorce. 

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, nearly 70% of heterosexual couples (unmarried) break up within the first year. For married couples, it's estimated that first marriages have a 41% chance of ending in divorce, with subsequent marriages having a higher chance of failure. With these statistics in mind, finding common ground and developing healthy conflict management skills is more important than ever. Of course, there are no quick fixes when it comes to building a life with someone and working through issues, but there are options that can provide relief when relationships become toxic. 

To give you an idea of what kinds of tactics couples can use to make progress, here are 5 conflict resolution tips that can make a meaningful difference: 

1. Directly Express Your Problems

Couples who are having issues may resort to a behavior that avoids the problem itself. For example, a partner who acts depressed or sad may use that as an expression, instead of directly stating their concern. The same thing applies to a partner who retaliates with anger or annoyance; their response side-steps the problem at hand, creating more confusion for both parties. In order to find a resolution, couples must directly express what's bothering them in a firm and honest matter. Once the issue is out in the open, a real plan of action can be put into place. 

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2. Don't Blame Your Partner

Putting the blame on someone for a problem that both people are experiencing never leads to a viable solution. Instead, the one taking the blame will feel attacked, forcing them to respond to the blame, rather than the problem at hand. A scenario that explains this pitfall is when a partner says, "You're crazy for thinking that!" Immediately, the blame is shifted away from the issue, which could be the fear of being cheated on, and now the other partner will go on the defensive: "I'm crazy? You're the one who's crazy!" Note that the original problem has now become secondary to the blame. To avoid this pattern, it's better to respond with "I feel" statements that keep the main point at the center of the discussion. By saying, "I feel that you're being crazy to think that I would cheat on you," removes the blame from the partner, while keeping the heart of the argument intact. This approach will lead to a better communication that honors the feelings of each partner without putting them down. 

3. Stick to One Argument at a Time

In addition to removing blame, it's important to maintain one argument at a time. Unfortunately, when couples fight, it's easy to start lumping together multiple issues into one massive blowout. When this happens, the ability to solve one problem gets lost in the shuffle of trying to solve many problems, which in turn causes an argument to go nowhere. Couples who can stick to one argument have a much better chance of finding one solution. This approach allows for an attitude of patience and understanding, giving each partner the time to process their feelings and come up with the right answers together before moving onto to something else. 

4. Communication is Key 

It may sound like a broken record, but healthy communication between partners is the bedrock of any successful relationship. Within this idea lies an umbrella of listening and response skills that provide guidance for couples when arguments start to ensue or differences begin to surface. For example, one must really pay attention to the issues or feelings that their partner is sharing. This form of listening can be followed up with questions or personal identifiers to make sure that one is understanding what is being said. If a partner is laid back in their reciprocity or preoccupied with other matters, the overall communication will never develop into something beneficial. Using a form of active listening and perception checks will eliminate misunderstandings and provide a strong foundation for alleviating future conflicts. 

5. Be Open Minded

Finally, couples who can remain open minded throughout their issues are more likely to find peaceful resolutions that serve the interests of both parties. Getting caught up on one side of the argument doesn't allow for any flexibility with understanding the other's concerns, so as a conflict grows, the odds of meeting in the middle are highly diminished. To combat this dysfunction, partners must learn to rationalize an argument from an objective standpoint. They must remove their ego and consider both sides of the coin without bias or personal gain. Operating within this mode will allow for a reasonable discussion, as well as having the openness to accept the other partner's standpoint. When couples can be open-minded and objective, they are well-suited to handle a variety of issues. 

NCU Believes Counseling Can Make a Difference

Whether it’s a couple just starting out or a marriage well into its prime, counseling services that offer conflict resolution management can lead to extraordinary breakthroughs. NCU is a firm believer in the benefits that counselors can offer to their communities, and their Marriage and Family Therapy program (MFT) is the perfect way to gain industry-knowledge, while preparing you for practice. 

The online MFT program gives you an in-depth perspective to help others navigate their life challenges and personal struggles. Through interactive programs, case studies, and quality training experiences, you'll develop a wealth of thinking and research skills that you can extend to your clients, ultimately helping them lead better lives. Plus, NCU offers the first distance-based program to receive certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), which means you can trust that your education is comprised of the latest techniques and practices. 

To learn more about NCU and their MFT programs, please call us at 866-776-0331 or fill out the online form below to request for more information.