Tips for Couples

Serious talkTo make your relationship with your partner work better, here are some recommendations for managing conflict:

  • Agree with your partner to never do any name calling, ever. It wounds and it wounds deeply.
  • Look at how you attribute blame or how you react to something your partner does or doesn’t do. How you interpret your partner’s behavior has a significant impact on the reason why you are angry. We don’t respond to what people do. We respond to the reason that we think they did the behavior.
  • If you have a problem with your significant other’s behavior, ask him or her about their perspective or why they thought their actions were a good idea. The reasons behind what they did may surprise you. Sometimes people are exhausted and not thinking straight. Or, they may think that you would do the same thing in their situation. Or, they may not have been thinking about you when they made their decision. People usually have reasons for what they do.
  • Be positive. I tell students that we fall in love with our reflection in our lover’s eyes. This means that part of the reason we love someone else is how they see us and make us feel. It really helps to have that positive attitude when things are going well and especially when you fight.
  • Don’t use your relationship as a source of power. Don’t try to control your partner by telling her or him what can and cannot be done. Using your relationship as a source of power doesn’t work very well. An argument shouldn’t be about winning. It should be about solving a problem. No one is happy in a relationship where they feel like they have no control and they lose all of the time.
  • Negotiate household tasks and realize that your significant other may have a lower (or higher) threshold for mess than you do. Things that one person may not even notice can drive another person nuts. Talk about the division of labor in the household and how you’ll handle it if you have different thresholds for clutter.
  • Don’t stew in anger. Talk about things before you explode. But, be sure to pick a time to talk that is as good for your partner as it is for you.

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alberts_jess_01Jess Alberts is President’s Professor of human communication and has been a faculty member in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University since 1989. Currently she serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project. Alberts teaches courses on human communication, conflict and negotiation, relational communication and work/life balance. She was named the Jeanne Lynd Herberger Professor in 2007. Alberts received the Outstanding Achievement and Contributions Award from the Commission on the Status of Women.

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Peggy O'Mara

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Editor and Publisher of peggyomara.com. Longtime natural living advocate, award winning writer, and independent thinker.

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