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Conflict Mismanagement: Unhelpful Habits to Avoid in Arguments

An important part of being in a healthy relationship is learning how to manage conflict. Sometimes, arguing is crucial for the relationship to grow.

However, it’s easy for conflict to become mismanaged. This can lead to building resentment, toxic dynamics, and the end of a relationship. Here are several unhelpful habits to avoid in arguments and what you can do instead.

Don’t completely avoid conflict

couple arguingEven though it’s unpleasant, it’s important for couples to argue and argue well. When you push down the impulse to voice any frustration, eventually you’ll explode.

It’s important to keep talking through your conflicts as they come up, rather than letting resentment and anger stew just below the surface. Don’t be so afraid of conflict—it’s a chance for you to practice your healthy communication skills.

Don’t get defensive

Instead of owning up to their mistakes, defensive people shift the blame onto others. Rather than accepting responsibility and looking at mistakes and criticism as an opportunity for growth, they refuse to look inward.

When one partner is defensive and puts blame on the other person, conflict will never get resolved. To avoid defensiveness on your part, think about your own contributions to the conflict. Learn to be self-aware, take ownership of your role in the relationship, and how to apologize.

If your partner is the defensive one, work on steering the conversation back to the original issue rather than letting them deflect.

Don’t stonewall your partner

Stonewalling is a terrible mismanagement of conflict. It can manifest as giving the silent treatment, refusing to engage in a conversation, or physically leaving the room.

While stonewalling may provide temporary relief from the tension of an argument, it ultimately shows the other person that what they have to say is not worth listening to. This can actually prolong the argument, as well as build further resentment.

To avoid this, it’s important to actively engage in dialogue, even when it feels uncomfortable. Remember: conflict resolution requires active participation from both parties.

Don’t escalate and overgeneralize

When emotions run high, sometimes people will dredge up past issues. During an argument escalation, you might resort to yelling, name-calling, or bringing up old wounds that are unrelated to this discussion. This not only derails the conversation but also deepens the divide between you and your partner.

To avoid escalation, take a step back when things get heated. It’s okay to pause an argument to cool down. Make an effort to actively listen to your partner and try to empathize with them. If one or both of you is prone to escalation, come up with some rules for working through conflict: when to take breaks, topics to avoid, and plans for self-care, for example.

Don’t hold onto grudges

Holding onto past grievances breeds resentment. When one person always has some past slight in the back of their mind, they’ll never truly be able to reconcile.

To let go of grudges, practice forgiveness and compassion. Recognize that holding onto resentment only harms yourself in the long run, and this is a choice you’re making. Focus on finding common ground and moving forward with a clean slate.

Are you struggling with conflict?

While it’s normal for couples to argue, it’s not good to keep rehashing the same issues, insult one another, or find yourselves in constant conflict.

If so, consider couples therapy. A therapist can work with you on examining where your conflicts stem from, how to communicate better with your partner, and deepening the friendship in your relationship.

To find out more about how couples therapy can help you avoid unhealthy communication habits, please reach out to us.