Conflict Resolution
Tips for Couples

If your significant other does or says something upsetting, don’t take immediate offense. Ignore the topic briefly, about fifteen to twenty minutes, longer if necessary. Do something else to distract yourself. Work, read, exercise, watch TV, or listen to music. If the issue still bothers you, talk to your partner. Most of the time, what ticked you off becomes a non-issue after you’ve taken a break.

Eliminate distractions when talking about conflicts. Turn off the TV or music and don’t accept calls. Avoid bringing up problems late at night, as his attention span may be dead for the evening. Take it from my wife: The few times she’s chosen to broach difficult subjects at night, it’s been a disaster. I can sleep through a hurricane, and she lies in bed with her eyes wide open all night, waiting for me to wake up and resume the dialogue.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus said it first: Men want a quick fix, while women sometimes just want to be heard. Remind him about what you need with the following preface: “I know it may be tough for you, but I want you just to listen. Don’t try to fix anything, just hear what I have to say. I’ll feel much better afterwards.”

Timing is crucial. If you or your significant other is


dealing with disappointments at work, or hosting a dreaded family member from out of town, or under an exceptional amount of stress, it’s probably not a suitable time to bust his chops about his poor communication skills. Wait until equilibrium returns or the dust settles.

Allow each other space before and after work. Don’t expect him (or yourself) to rush back from work to sort out a conflict that began that morning. Take some time to unwind and relax before you resume the discussion. If you return home hungry, eat first. Low blood sugar is bad for conflict resolution.

Conflicts should be raised and resolved in private, within the confines of your home. If they get aired in public, you risk embarrassing your partner or being humiliated yourself.


Nicholas Aretakis, author of Ditching Mr. Wrong: How to End a Bad Relationship and Find Mr. Right.

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