Conflict Management in Relationships

Every romance will be tested with some type of disagreement during the relationship. If you’ve followed our other relationship guides, hopefully, these fusses will only be over minor issues. But one thing is for sure: conflict is inevitable, even for the most loving of couples. 

However, the way you manage conflict isn’t inevitable. There are profitable and unprofitable ways to handle these situations. Instead of allowing conflict to be a destructive force in the relationship, it can be used to your advantage.

This guide serves to help you manage relationship conflict in a productive way. As a couple, you can use these tumultuous moments for mutual growth. Below are key insights for having the relationship survive conflict and grow from the resolution. 

couple in disagreement

Areas of Conflict 

A couple consists of two unique individuals with varying tendencies in multiple scenarios. Each person will have distinctive situations, categories, or topics that are hot-button issues to them. These are the proverbial land mines that all couples will stumble into at some point during the relationship. 

Hot-button issues are generally lumped into sixteen big categories and ranked from first to last: Money, Career, Religion, Recreation, Friends, Relatives, In-laws, Children, Sex, Jealousy, Priorities, Schedules, Communication, Chores, Illness, and Sleep Habits.

Depending on the compatibility of the couple, sometimes their individual rankings in these areas will overlap. So both partners might share some of the same hot-button issues. Generally speaking, this is a good thing because each person already understands the irritating nuances of the shared category.

Ranking Your Areas of Conflict

It’s important for each person to rank these areas of conflict (1-16) and share them with their partner. This gives them both a way to visually perceive which areas are most important to their partner. It’s also helpful for each person to list a couple of boundaries or expectations for their top five categories. 

For instance, if Money is one of your top-ranking areas of conflict, you might list “staying within budget” and “saving $1,000 per month” as expectations for the relationship or marriage. If Schedules is one of your top-ranking areas, you might list “being on time” and “planning romantic dates” as unique expectations.

The point is to provide your partner with a window into what might annoy you about that aspect. It allows both people to note their partner’s boundaries or expectations and leaves little room for an “I didn’t know” excuse. 

Managing Stressful Moments 

The first line of defense against conflict is avoidance. Couples want to reduce their potential for conflict by sidestepping each other’s hot-button issues. But life has a way of becoming overbearing at times, and memories tend to lapse during these stressful moments.

It can be infuriating when your conflict areas are disturbed. So we want to provide you with a good way to handle the moments when your boundaries are crossed or expectations aren’t met. 

Your partner might notice that you’re upset and ask, “What’s wrong?” You should tell them the problem but also suggest talking about it later. Immediately after the incident is not the best time or way to address the infraction!

When you do decide to address the infraction, we suggest you do it with this exercise. Write down two positive things that your partner has done in the past day or week then write down the infraction that upset you. When it comes time to talk, you have two things they will love hearing and one that they will be much more receptive to acknowledging and correcting – even gratefully!

But if your partner habitually your areas of conflict, there is likely cause for concern. If you have repeatedly used the tactic above, it might be worth considering the possibility of a breakup. These actions seem to indicate a blatant disregard for your boundaries and expectations, and this type of behavior doesn’t tend to self-correct as the relationship develops. 

Scriptures for Conflict

Pride is the primary barrier to resolving conflict, and that makes conflict management a spiritual issue too. So it’s no surprise that this issue is also addressed by the Bible. 

There are multiple passages about how to handle personal conflict, and we’ve highlighted some of the more pertinent ones below. Think about the application of these in the circumstances surrounding your own relationship.

Philippians 2:3-4, ESV 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”

Where else but Scripture are we told to count others (and our significant other) as more important than ourselves? These biblical instructions certainly run counter to the culture of the world. Look to the interests of your partner by being attentive to the hot-button issues of their conflict areas.

Proverbs 15:1, NLT

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

The way you respond to conflict is key to resolving it. You know how to push their buttons, and this can be tempting to do after they’ve pushed your own buttons. But a kind tone is always the best manner for resolving a personal conflict.

Ephesians 4:26, NIV

““In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Surprise, it’s okay to be angry after something bad has been done! But don’t let your anger cause you to do something you will later regret, or you will be the one needing to apologize. Always resolve the conflict as soon as possible so that your anger doesn’t grow.

Proverbs 17:9, NLT

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”

It’s important to release our anger after the conflict has been appropriately addressed. It’s loving to forgive someone but sometimes hard to forget what they did. That’s normal, but just don’t dwell on it. The longer you dwell on it, the faster it could end your relationship.