Ask Elizabeth: Resolving Conflict

Elizabeth BrennanDriven David Asks

My partner and I have been together for nearly seven years.  We are both intelligent and have responsible positions in our workplaces. We have similar and separate interests and, whilst we acknowledge that this is the ideal, we do experience some deep conflict around same.  I love my partner and do not wish to leave him.  I just want to resolve out conflicts quickly.

Elizabeth’s Advice,

It seems to me that you want something specific, a definitive recipe that will provide the result you want.  Whilst I do not believe that one formula fits all, here is a suggested method that can be helpful during stressful times when we may get caught up in our anger towards another rather than taking a ‘problem solving approach’.  And such approach takes time – there is no quick-fix!

1.    Basic Attitude

In any successful relationship, it is critical to have a baseline attitude of care and respect and then to filter information about the other person through that attitude.  This could be described as having ‘positive basic assumptions’ about the other person.  Remember that you care about your partner and that your relationship will deepen after working on solving your issues together.


2.    Problem Definition

When you encounter conflict, take a few deep breaths and monitor your thoughts for a moment. Ask yourself what the real issues are in the situation.  What is the problem for you?  Try to be a specific as possible in your communication.

3.    Your Perspective

Clarify how you feel and what you think about the problem.  What fears and concerns do you have?  It is often helpful to write down your feelings, fears, needs and thoughts.

4.    The Other Person’s Perspective

Ask your partner to share his feelings, fears, needs and thoughts, and really try to understand the problem from his point of view, and vice versa.

5.    Brainstorm Options

Together, list the options you can think of in order to deal with the situation.  Be as creative as you can, even if they sound ludicrous or silly. Remember not to negatively judge each other’s contributions.

6.   Decision and Monitoring

Together, choose an option and then monitor how it turns out.  If that option doesn’t work, then go back to the list and choose another one.

Conflict is inevitable in all relationships for the simple reason that we are all different. We all have our own needs and sometimes those needs rub against those of another.  Rather that conflict being a road-block to a relationship, it should be embraced and worked through in order to increase intimacy by learning more about each other and by working towards a result that both parties are comfortable with.  Good luck.

Please send questions on relationships to Elizabeth Brennan, Relationships Australia, PO Box 1206, West Leederville, WA 6901, or email [email protected]

Elizabeth is only able to answer your enquiries in print in OUTinPerth and cannot give personal replies.


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