How to Solve Conflicts in a Long-Term Relationship

After so much positive feedback from guys who are in long-term relationships, we have decided to dedicate this email to conflict resolution with your girlfriend, lover or wife.

If you’re in a long-term relationship, you know that they’re not always easy. Disagreements happen even in the most stable relationships. In fact, your relationship stays stable because you know how to proactively deal with potential conflict. It’s not just that things can get a little routine when the two of you are in a long-term relationship. After being together for such a long time, you’ve gotten really good at pushing each other’s buttons. Maybe unwanted behavioral patterns emerge and that’s not good for anyone. So how do you avoid – and more important – solve conflicts when you’re in a long-term relationship?

Listen Actively

A lot of times when your partner is upset, what she wants more than anything is to be heard. How many times have you been accused of ‘not listening?’ Of course you were, but were you listening actively? Or did you immediately suggest a solution? What you need to do to listen actively is:

  • Get rid of distractions. Don’t mess around with your phone. Turn the TV off. Give her attention.
  • Maintain eye contact. There are a few better ways to let her know that you’re listening.
  • Really listen. It sounds obvious and it should be, but it’s not. Pay attention to what she’s saying. Don’t draw conclusion or offer solutions.
  • She wants you to feel what she is feeling. One way is to repeat back what she said to let her know you understood…obviously not everything.
  • But it’s worth saying “It sounds like…” and then making sure that you heard what she wanted to say.

Only after you’ve done this should you worry about what you’re going to say or suggest…and speaking of that:

Be Kind

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say things that we don’t really mean or wish that we hadn’t said. In a lot of conflict with couples, the problem is that one person escalates, causing the other person to escalate, which creates a particularly nasty cycle. You’re one-upping her, she’s one-upping you and the whole thing becomes a disaster. This is how very minor incidents blow up into huge deals.

While it can be very hard, you need to remember that you’re speaking to someone you love at all times. You have to be firm and confident, but you also have to be kind. Don’t say anything to her that you wouldn’t tolerate someone else saying to her. When you catch yourself doing that, apologize immediately, then move on just as fast.

Don’t Be Afraid to Leave Things Unresolved

One of the worst pieces of advice that gets bandied about is ‘never go to bed mad.’ All that’s going to do is keep you two arguing into the wee hours of the night. Instead, you want to know when to say when. A lot of the time, the two of you are going to be well-served with a good night’s sleep, some space and some distance from the argument (specifically if you both had something to drink.) Whereas ‘never going to bed mad’ might have the two of you griping at each other into the wee hours of the night, realizing that it’s time to call it a night can give you some perspective. A lot of the time you’re going to decide that it’s just not worth it.

Don’t Accuse, Avoid “Never” and “Always”

Following up on the above, you always need to ask yourself why you’re arguing. There’s one question that works well in just about any situation where you’re having a conflict: Ask yourself “What do I want?” Don’t be afraid to turn this around on her — or anyone else you’re arguing with for that matter. A lot of times, simply asking someone what it is that they want can take them aback. Maybe she’s not even sure what it is she wants. Maybe she just wants you to understand her.

The key to this is the tone of your voice. You don’t want to ask her in an accusatory way. You want to make it clear that the question is not rhetorical. One good way to phrase it is “What do you want to happen?” This makes the question more specific.

Never use the words “never” or “always” in an argument… Ever. Just don’t….because what happens is that it leads almost always to a defensive reaction which makes matters worse. For example, sentences like “You NEVER do X” or “You ALWAYS do Y” are poisonous for any communication and leaves your partner with one choice: fighting back. Instead, describe how you feel about the topic. “Sometimes I feel abandoned/alone/sad/angry because when you do X.”

Don’t Try To Prove that You are Right. Find a Middle Ground and Move On Together

To compromise, you need to be clear on what you want and what she wants. Then you can start to come to some middle ground, but without a clear picture of what each of you are looking for, that kind of compromise is impossible. Once you know what you – and her – both want, start talking about how you can both get some of what you want. Make it clear that you’re willing to give up part of what you want so that the both of you can be happy. Solving a conflict this way can make your relationship even stronger than before because you demonstrate that you understand and care and – at the same time – you hold your ground for what you need.

At the end of the day that’s what being in a long-term relationship is all about. You’re bonding and growing with your partner.

Evolve and The Sneak
Stylelife Coaching Team

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