Overcoming Conflict with Your Significant Other

Has being cooped up due to COVID-19 caused conflict? Scott Bea, PsyD, shares the best ways to resolve an argument.

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For many couples, COVID-19 measures have resulted in a lot more time spent together.

However, being in the same house with your significant other, day in and day out, can sometimes result in arguments.

Scott Bea, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic encourages couples to take some time, cool off, and come up with a recovery plan after a disagreement.

“If we could notice that when we’re in the heat of an emotion, in a conflict, that’s maybe not the best time to absolutely resolve it, because we may say some things that we regret or are hurtful,” he said. “If we could develop a plan on how we recover quickly after that, endorse similar values and interest in protecting one another by finding shared solutions – that might be ideal.”

What we do after an argument can have a lasting impact on the health of our relationships.

In fact, a recent study shows when people take action, by apologizing or seeking outside help, their relationship fared better in the long run.

Dr. Bea warns other behaviors, such as avoidance, can have the opposite effect.

“Things like criticism, defensiveness, contempt, or stone-walling, or a refusal to engage in problem-solving – if you notice those are growing in your relationship, you do want to take some steps if you value that relationship, and if you value being happy instead of being right,” he said. “Sometimes we have to humble ourselves and say there’s some things I can learn, and some things I can modify.”

Dr. Bea admits conflict resolution takes practice, but if we can dedicate ourselves to working on our skills or enlisting the help of a counselor, it can help.

He said once couples start getting hostile or detached, it creates real problems and people have a hard time finding their way back.

“We’re reflexively, emotional, or reflexively human, and we still have to find ways to acknowledge that we might run off the rails a little bit, but we’re really interested in recovering,” said Dr. Bea. “We could practice ways of doing that or get some professional help if it’s really starting to become an interference in how you maintain intimacy in a relationship.”

Dr. Bea said it can be hard to know exactly what to do after a dispute, simply because problem-solving isn’t something that we typically rehearse.

But, he maintains those who are active in resolving conflict seem to recover quicker emotionally than those who use a passive approach.

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