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Trouble in paradise? Here’s how to cope with relationship conflict.

Posted on the 19 February 2019

Man wearing gold watch and woman with a tattoo wearing a ring holding hands while sitting on a couch

Although every relationship comes with different types of challenges, one thing remains the same: they all require effort. But when couples work together to tackle life’s ups and downs, the relationship is more likely to survive – and even thrive. 

Regular arguments. A lack of trust. Mounting resentment.

If issues between you and your partner are left unaddressed, stress can accumulate and tensions may rise – putting the strength of your relationship at risk.

But when resolving the problems plaguing your partnership, it’s important to focus on the causes not the symptoms. By targeting the root of your conflict, you and your partner can work toward a solution that’s better for both of you now and in the future.

The signs of a strained relationship

Although many troubled relationships are characterised by consistent arguments that are never really resolved, the symptoms of a strained relationship can be far subtler:

  • You and your partner look for excuses to spend time apart
  • You and your partner barely talk
  • You or your partner don’t want to be touched
  • You feel relieved when your partner leaves – or vice versa
  • You and your partner can’t be honest with each other
  • You or your partner feels powerless in the relationship

The causes of conflict

The stressors that can strain your relationship range from simple to life changing. But typically, they’re grouped into two categories:

  1. Minor stressors: These are small, everyday problems such as poor communication, inability to express your needs and differing values, expectations or parenting styles.
  2. Major stressors: More serious and long term in nature, these issues can include terminal illness, severe mental health conditions, enduring financial difficulties, infidelity, job loss and the death of a loved one.

What happens when you repress your distress?

Persistent and sustained relationship distress can harm your wellbeing, mentally and physically. It can also cause a rift in the relationships you have with family, friends and colleagues.

Harmful effects include:

  • Physical: Headaches, muscle pains, intestinal problems, chronic fatigue and insomnia
  • Mental: Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders and feelings of guilt, shame or anger
  • Social: Withdrawing from activities, isolating yourself from people and damaging other relationships

How to conquer your conflict

The first step is recognising there is a problem.

Afterwards, there are a number of strategies you and your partner can adopt to repair the relationship together:

  • Keep communication open: Express your feelings, needs, wants, problems and thoughts with your partner – and encourage them to do the same.
  • Say ‘I’ instead of ‘you’: I feel this way… I believe that… Starting your statements with ‘I’ helps the other person empathise with your position and stops them from feeling accused.
  • Learn emotional problem solving: It’s critical to ask yourself how rational your feelings are – and why you’re feeling this way. It’s also critical that you don’t feed illogical, negative thoughts.
  • Hone your assertiveness skills: To be more assertive, it’s important to avoid guilt trips, agree to disagree, stay calm, listen intently, be empathetic, know your value and accept constructive criticism.
  • Set healthy boundaries: Work together to set clear boundaries around time, dislikes, sexual preferences, expectations in the relationship, privacy, goals and other important matters.
  • Enhance intimacy and compassion: Intimacy goes beyond sex. It can also be trying a new activity together, making time for deep conversations, words of affirmation or acts of affection.

Are you and your partner still struggling to cope? Don’t be afraid to reach out. The Positive Psychology team is here to support both of you – so call 1300 955 636 to book a consultation.