Heart shaped red neon signage

Resolving Conflict in Relationships

Dealing with conflict in social situations can be tricky. Everyone has their own ways of handling emotions and disagreements, and these methods do not always align. Whether its the need for personal space or a desire for connection, how we navigate conflict depends on our individual coping styles and overall goal for the relationship.

Resolving Conflict Together

Classically championed by those with an anxious attachment, sometimes people feel the need to communicate and authentically connect with the person they are in disagreement with. These people are brave, often process best in conversation, and value feeling seen and seeing others. However, it’s not always best to connect. Take a breakup, for example. Continuously engaging with a person you’ve decided to separate from can hinder personal progress. In such cases, finding resolution independently, or seeking support from friends not involved, will help you shape your own narrative.

Using your social courage to grow on your own becomes crucial when the other party’s narrative is invalidating or hurtful. As a queer therapist, I have seen this most classically occur between adult children and the elders in their family. Attempting joint resolution can sometimes turn into a tug-of-war where both parties aim to convince the other to see things their way. Joint resolution is most helpful, and at times necessary, when two parties are committed to growing together. It is important to face our differences in order to grow as a unit – without joint resolution, a partnership is doomed to either decay or remain in the shallow end of the pool for eternity.

Resolving Conflicts Separately

Those with an avoidant attachment are pros at stepping back and finding resolution on their own. They value independence, respect personal space, and often accept themselves and others as they are. While this approach helps maintain peace by avoiding immediate conflict, it may not always benefit the relationship in the long run. Leaving to cool off and reflect individually after an argument is considerate, but it risks miscommunication when parties are on different pages.

Removing yourself from a heated argument to regain composure is wise, allowing space for bygones to become bygones and for overall reflection. However, solely focusing on personal growth may hinder the overall development of a relationship. Finding resolution on our own is suitable when it is healthiest to agree to disagree for the sake of the relationship. Sometimes opening up to someone’s narrative can invalidate your own and lead you to self-hating perspectives. It’s simply important to compartmentalize and recognize that certain conflicts are better left unspoken to maintain general wellness.

A Combination of the Two

Of course, resolving conflict is not a binary experience. Relationships benefit from a blend of connection and space in order to phoenix their way out of disagreements. When emotions run high and we find ourselves more defensive than open, it is helpful to communicate the need for space to process feelings before reconnecting. There might be times when two parties agree to leave the past behind and accept a deviation in narrative. Other times it will be more beneficial to share, listen, and make adjustments in order to meet each other’s needs and foster growth. Not only are all relationships different, but all situations are too. Next time you are in conflict and seek resolution, ask yourself if it makes more sense to resolve jointly or separately and see where it takes you.

Avatar photo
About August Wambold

Your standard neurodiverent, queer counsellor with an enthusiasm for easy bake cookies and a constant readiness to dance.