How Happy Couples Handle Disagreements: Tips for Conflict Management

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By Jim Duncan, MA

Have you ever heard of a couple who claimed to never fight with each other? As if learning to handle disagreements was a step they were fortunate enough to skip?

You might wonder how a “no fighting” relationship is even possible. The truth is, it’s not!

Arguments, disagreements, and conflicts will occur in an intimate relationship. It’s a normal part of any relationship. The key to successful conflict management is how the conflict is handled.

To get you started on the right foot, managing conflict like the happy couple you want to be requires a plan of action. You already know that learning to handle disagreements is a part of your relationship. It makes sense to have a plan in place for when those pitfalls occur.

Here’s how to make a conflict management plan like the happy couples do.

“Know Thyself” to Handle Disagreements Well

First, it’s vital to know how you respond to any type of conflict, friction, or confrontation. As you may have imagined, to “know thyself” requires some intense honesty on your part.

For example, do you have a compulsion for communication, desiring to talk it out? Or, does your blood boil, and you need a minute to step back from the situation to retract your claws?

Some might believe that there is a perfect way to respond to conflict—calm, cool, and collected. Yet, the funny thing about humans is that we’re not perfect. So, work with what you know about yourself to support the best results.

Respect Resolution Styles (and Triggers)

To go along with the previous point, be sure to know your partner’s resolution styles as well as your own. The same goes for their emotional triggers, too.

It may be difficult for the communicative partner to give some space to the blood-boiling partner. This is why it’s so important to have your plan of action in place before you approach a disagreement.

Happy couples take the time to get to know the inner workings of each other. Furthermore, they respect each other’s resolution styles.

Put the Blinders On

A common tip floating around online articles and magazines is to stick to the task at hand. It’s a solid key to better conflict management!

Happy couples fight about one thing at a time—not the socks on the floor, how the dog still needs his bath, or that awful gift from 10 years ago.

To handle disagreements like a happy couple, stay focused on the one issue at hand.

Keep It Above the Belt

When you stick to one issue at a time, fighting fair becomes much easier. However, it’s important to constantly remind yourself to keep it clean.

What this means is that your partner is your safe zone. You are your partner’s safe zone, as well. You share intimate details about your life with each other.

Ultimately, that sort of information should be handled with respect. Intimate information isn’t meant to be used against someone else simply to win a battle.

In short, don’t take cheap shots. Happy couples take the long way around a disagreement to come to a resolution.

Wear the Same Colors

Most importantly, being part of a couple is a lot like being part of a team. A good way to think of your partner is as that special person on your side of the playing field. The two of you wear the same team colors. A disagreement doesn’t automatically make them the opposition.

Remember, you’re trying to find a solution to the problem by tackling it together, not to ultimately win a battle.

Add Some Humor

Finally, when you take the team concept to heart, don’t forget to splash the conflict with some humor. Light humor, never at your partner’s expense, can help bring down tension and reset escalated emotions.

Even during a disagreement, your relationship is still the same one it’s been up until now. Find comfort in that.

Of course, there is a time to be very serious, but you’re also both imperfect humans. Which can be a laughing matter all on its own.


Jim Duncan, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who seek to improve their communication techniques with one another. For support in learning to handle disagreements and develop stronger conflict resolution skills with your partner, schedule a session with Jim. To make an appointment, give him a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 117, or submit an online appointment request on the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you.