by Australia Counselling member Lauren Sokolski

Because all relationships have some level of conflict, how you manage conflict is important.

It can be hard to do conflict well when you’re under stress or feeling triggered by your partner. Take a minute to think about the conflicts you do have in your relationship.

Is there a pattern to the way you argue and try to resolve issues? When the conflict is over, though not necessarily resolved, how do you get your relationship back on track?

With on-going conflict that seems to follow the same patterns, and where you feel it is getting harder and harder to feel positive towards your partner, you may want to consider seeking some counselling to help you navigate through this territory.

In other cases, it is worth thinking about the idea of repair. Do you need a metaphorical band-aid or something stronger? Sometimes a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers may do the trick, but remember that repair isn’t about buying off your partner.

How to repair after a conflict

Repair may mean:

  • letting your partner know you are sorry for the distress caused to them by the argument
  • letting your partner know you are willing to have another conversation about the topic at a later (this is what I call having a ‘series of conversations’ about an issue; you don’t have to resolve a
    disagreement all in one go)
  • offering your partner a hug, kiss, cuddle, etc, as a way to bridge the distance you may be feeling between each other after a fight
  • making a decision to be emotionally generous towards your partner in spite of the conflict you’ve had (this means holding onto your vision for the overall well-being of your relationship).

You might be wondering by now why you are the one that should be doing this. What about your partner? Well this is where it can get a bit tricky.

Many of us are reluctant to be the one to make the first move; maybe you feel like you are always the one taking the initiative to repair things between you. Maybe you tend to hold a grudge and find it really hard to let go of your negative feelings towards your partner. This is where the idea of taking responsibility for yourself comes in.

It is easy to blame someone else for relationship problems

It is much harder to take the time to reflect on what you have contributed to the angry exchange you’ve just had. And then to take responsibility for your part in it, regardless of how your partner has been. This is truly the challenge of developing a mature relationship.

Holding on to the vision of how you want to be in the relationship no matter what comes back at you.

So let’s be realistic. It is near impossible to behave in an emotionally responsible and mature way all of the time. We all have bad days where everything we know about how to nurture our relationships flies out the window.

Rather than falling into a pit of despair because you’ve ‘mucked up’ or feeling badly about yourself because you didn’t handle the interaction in the best way, take some time to reflect on what you could have done differently and remember this for next time. In the meantime, think about what you can do to help repair the relationship. Then try it out.

Lauren Sokolski is a Melbourne relationship counsellor.