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How Do You Defuse Conflict in a Relationship?

One night Kristen and I got into an argument while we were in the early stages of dating. Like an amateur, I left the room. But I came back. I threw the book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in front of her and triumphantly said, “You need to read this!” Then I marched back into the other room, full of pride and hiding my true feelings. This might not have been the best way to defuse conflict in a relationship.

defuse relationship conflict

If I’m going to be honest, I never fully read Love & Respect. I just knew the premise of it–men want to be respected. It’s also about how women want to be loved, but I wasn’t feeling cuddly and gushy in the moment.

A pro would’ve said, “I don’t feel respected.”

I neglected the fact you can tell the truth in love.

When you get to know her, she wants you to win her heart. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. She needs to know her heart is safe in your hands. She might test you. Will you handle her feelings and emotions with care? As author Gordon Dalbey puts it in Healing The Masculine Soul,

She needs a capable man, willing to wield the sword of truth with a manly sensitivity—that is, with the courage to cut where and when necessary, and with the love to do it with respect for her….

This “manly sensitivity” reminds me of Hurt Locker, a movie about a bomb disarmer. How do you defuse conflict in a relationship? In a tense situation, should you cut the red wire or the blue wire? The right words in a conflict will render the ticking bomb useless and unlock her heart. The wrong words, however, can cause a premature explosion and she will lock up even tighter.

“Is it that time of the month?” and “What’s wrong with you?” are generally not helpful questions in a tough situation. Silence or anger are not helpful either.

“Wading through relationship conflict,” my friend director Nathan Scoggins says, “is like playing the game Operation. It requires intentionality.”

It also requires understanding. In a loving way, find out what the issue truly is. Questions like, “What can I do to help?” or “What can we do to get beyond this?” will help provide a safe place for communication.

“At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information,” says Kerry Patterson, author of Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.

A good goal is to provide an environment where she’s free to discuss everything relevant on her heart. But don’t forget yourself. It’s equally important to share what’s pertinent to you.

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3 Responses to How Do You Defuse Conflict in a Relationship?

  1. Ben McLean October 21, 2015 at 12:16 am #

    Thanks Chris, the article has truly been helpful! You’re right, comflicts and misunderstandings in a relationship are totally unavoidable, but fights and hurtful words and actions however are! We men ought to constantly remind ourselves that we’re on the same Team with our wives, on the same Mission, on the same Goal, we’re Partners with our wives and not enemies!
    All strong marriages are built on Patience, Kindness, Forgiveness, Truthful and Optimism! So as Gents, Fathers and Good guys let’s take a lead and install these 5 virtues in our marriages and homes!!!

  2. Ben McLean October 21, 2015 at 12:17 am #

    Thanks Kris, the article has truly been helpful! You’re right, comflicts and misunderstandings in a relationship are totally unavoidable, but fights and hurtful words and actions however are! We men ought to constantly remind ourselves that we’re on the same Team with our wives, on the same Mission, on the same Goal, we’re Partners with our wives and not enemies!
    All strong marriages are built on Patience, Kindness, Forgiveness, Truthful and Optimism! So as Gents, Fathers and Good guys let’s take a lead and install these 5 virtues in our marriages and homes!!!

  3. King Muindi November 30, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    I’ve always been one to face issues and not sweep them beneath the carpet. I’m growing in showing love and concern in times of conflict but also to be gentle and firm. It’s a learning curve for me.

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