• LisaWatson, LICSW

Tip for Managing Relationship Conflict

Ask yourself just one question during conflict and you might just uncover the way to resolution.

What need am I trying to have met? Or, what need is my partner trying to meet?

We all have needs to be met ranging from validation, safety, sex, attention... and often times conflict is the result of missing that core need in that moment.

Here is an example. Lets use the imaginary partners, Sam and Billie. Now, Billie is about to go out to a work dinner. Like clockwork, Sam starts to become irritable about an hour before Billie needs to leave. Billie knows this is going to happen- it always does. A fight ensues and plans are usually canceled.

Billie has wondered why this always happens. Is Sam jealous? Is this manipulation? Is Sam just an awful, terrible, controlling person? Billie never asks. The fight erupts, the in the moment feelings of anger are slung around leaving no room to discuss what is actually happening.

What need might Sam be trying to meet by doing this? With some self reflection, insight into thoughts and patterns and with a partner willing to dig a little deeper, Sam may be able to uncover what is really going on here.

Sam has a need to feel validated in the relationship. Billie does not invite Sam to the work dinner over fear that Sam will be bored (this is a whole other conflict resolution tip coming soon). Sam interprets the lack of invite to mean their relationship is not important.

The need is validation. A clear message of the role and importance of their relationship.

In reality, it takes work to figure out our partners need. It takes work to figure out what our own needs are. This generally involves dipping your toes into the past to identify early core beliefs, how we learned to navigate life in our formative years, what was our model for getting needs met and what ultimately worked for us.

This work can be done on an individual basis, alongside your partner doing couples counseling or both! Its perfectly fine to try and navigate this on your own or with your partner. Trust your own judgement- you'll know if you are on track or if its time to enlist a counselor's assistance!


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