Conflict has a bad reputation.  Conflict itself is not the problem.  All conflict means is that two or more people have opposing needs, values, or opinions.  That’s it.  It doesn’t mean that your needs, values, or opinions are wrong.  It doesn’t mean that your significant other’s needs, values, or opinions are wrong.  They are just different and in opposition of yours.

Conflict becomes toxic to relationships when two people approach conflict in one or more of the following ways.


  • Fighting over who is right and who is wrong
  • Believing that the other person wants to deprive you of getting what you want and need
  • Becoming attached to “winning”
  • Becoming attached to “conceding”
  • Making it personal – engaging in character assassination

Conflict can be good for your relationship.  It creates an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your significant other.   It enables you to accept what is, thereby creating the space for effective problem solving.  It can result in more intimacy and growth.  So next time you find yourself arguing with your significant other over where you’ll go on vacation, what house you’ll buy, or how much junk food you’ll allow your children to eat, try following these guidelines:

  • Take the time to understand your significant other’s position.  Ask questions. Be curious without judgment.  Understand the underlying factors and motivations.  You just might be surprised.
  • Do the same.  Help your significant other understand you and your position better.
  • Seek to find a solution that comes from understanding and caring about how your partner feels and what’s important to him or her, not from winning or getting what you want.  Be creative.  Think out of the box.
  • If you can’t find an acceptable solution, put the issue on hold (if you can realistically do so).  Come back to it another time.  Sometimes things shift when you allow issues and emotions to settle.  A new perspective or solution comes to light.
  • Never make each other wrong.  Never make winning the priority.  Make your relationship the priority.

What conflicts have you experienced in your relationship?  How did you resolve them?  If you utilized the process above, how did it work?  Share your story—we want to hear from you!

Be well,


Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery

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