Conflict comes up in any and all relationships, especially intimate relationships. It would be unreasonable to believe that you can be in a romantic relationship that never has any conflict! It’s how you deal with this conflict that will either make or break your relationship.

As we have talked about before, it is important to be realistic when you are trying new strategies in your life! If you have been struggling with fighting with your partner, and are looking to change your communication style, start with using one of these strategies! Choose one strategy that you think you can stick with, and use this strategy until you feel confident introducing more.

Today, we will go over 8 simple strategies that you can use to communicate with your significant other when you find yourselves in a conflict.

8 communication strategies to use when in a conflict with your partner

1. Take a break

When you are experiencing strong feelings of anger, hurt, or frustration, it can be very easy to respond to your loved one with harsh words and yelling. This was one of the most common problems that couples discussed in the communication course that I taught.  

Research shows that once a person reaches a certain level of emotional arousal, it is not possible for them to process information or communicate effectively. In a moment of conflict, when you are feeling strong emotions, it can be difficult to control what you say and you risk saying something hurtful to your partner. If you are not confident in your ability to respond in a calm voice without yelling or swearing, it is always better to take a break.

When you are taking a break, let your partner know what you are doing! For example, you could say “I am feeling very frustrated right now, I need to take a walk around the block, I will be back in 10 minutes.” Once you take this time away from the conversation, you can come back feeling more prepared to communicate with your significant other.

The important part to remember about taking a break is that it is only a break. You have to come back to complete the conversation once you have cooled off! Ignoring conflict will only make it worse.

2. Avoid “you never” and “you always” statements

These statements are easy to throw out in the heat of the moment, but are rarely true and almost always hurtful to the other person. When you are telling your significant other what is bothering you, be specific and avoid these generalizing statements.

Instead of: You never look at me when I am talking!
Try: I felt frustrated when you didn’t look at me when I was talking to you earlier.

Instead of: You never help me out with the kids at night!
Try: I felt overwhelmed when you didn’t help me out with the kids tonight.

Statements that start with “I” instead of “YOU” encourage open conversations that do not start with blaming and hurtful statements. Your partner is going to be more likely to respond to you in a positive way when you use this type of statement to describe your conflict!

3. Stay in the moment

When you are in conflict with your partner, it can be tempting to bring up past examples of conflict. This is not a good way to communicate your concerns to your partner! Instead, try your best to focus only on the present conflict and avoid bringing up conflicts from the past. If the conversation starts to stray towards old conflicts, do your best to bring it back to the present. It does not serve anyone to continue to fight old arguments over and over again. Once the conflict has been resolved, agree with your partner that you will not bring it up again.

4. Allow your partner to finish their thought

Conversations that once start off calm and respectful can escalate quickly when feelings become stronger. Often times, the conversation will turn into a yelling match because each partner does not feel like they are being heard and will raise their voices in response to make their point clear. To avoid this escalation, make a point of listening to your partner’s entire point before responding to them. This will make them feel heard and will allow them to know that you value what they have to say (even if you don’t agree!).

5. Validate, validate, validate

When your partner is expressing their emotions to you, validate them! There are many ways to express this. For example, you can say things like:

It makes sense that you would feel frustrated about that.

I understand that you were annoyed when I did this.

All humans have a need to feel validated and heard. When you validate your partner’s feelings, you are letting them know that you truly care about what they have to say and that you are listening to them! If you have never tried validation before, I strongly recommend that you do this the next time you are in conflict, you will be amazed at the difference validation can make in your relationships!

6. Define the problem

During a time of conflict, it is easy to miscommunicate definitions. If you don’t clearly define what the problem is, it can lead to confusion and more conflict! This happens a lot in the heat of the moments, as emotions and words are expressed at a fast paced. When you are approaching your partner about a conflict, make sure that you are being clear about what that conflict! This way, they understand what you are wanting to talk about and you can work together to find a solution to the conflict.

7. Talk about how you will argue, before you are arguing

This is a strategy that many many couples do not think to do! When you are not experiencing conflict, the way you will resolve a conflict is almost out of sight and out of mind. However, if you talk about how you will act in an argument before you are in an argument, you are being proactive and setting yourself up for success! Both of you will have expectations and will be able resolve the argument more effectively than just jumping in.

Create some healthy guidelines together for arguing, and remind each other of these guidelines when you are in conflict. Here are some examples of healthy guidelines:

We won’t swear at each other.

We won’t yell at each other.

We won’t belittle each other.

We will listen to other.

We will be honest and will not judge the other when they are honest.

We will be okay with either one of us taking a break if we feel like we can’t keep these boundaries!

8. Remember that you love this person! 

In an argument, it is so easy to let your strong emotions control you. You may get caught up in the moment, so do your best to keep perspective. Take a step back and remember that you are communicating to the person that you love! Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself that you love this person and that you want this person in your life. Doing this can bring you back to reality when you are in the heat of the moment!

Take home message

Today we covered 8 very important communication strategies for when you are having a conflict with your significant other! These strategies are effective in helping you resolve any conflict that comes up in your relationship. Show this list to your significant other, and create some communication guidelines today to help prepare your relationship for future conflict!

Here are the 8 strategies that we covered today!

  1. Take a break.
  2. Avoid “You Never” or “You Always” statements.
  3. Stay in the moment.
  4. Don’t interrupt.
  5. Validate, validate, validate.
  6. Define the problem.
  7. Talk about how you will argue, before you are arguing.
  8. Remember that you love this person!

If you are enjoying learning about healthy communication strategies, be sure to check out this post:

3 Tips To Help You Effectively Communicate With Kids


Jess VanderWier

Registered Psychotherapist & Mom of 3

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