All couples face times of conflict in their relationship. With that said, it may come as a relief to hear the following: our research shows that the existence of conflict is not an omen portending the end of your relationship! Some negativity is necessary for a stable relationship, but positivity is what nourishes your love. The real predictor of a relationship’s failure in times of conflict is a couple’s inability to manage conflict in a healthy manner, and to move forward from conflict having addressed the source of their gridlock.

In sum, couples need to understand the fights that they’ve just had. To move forward following an argument, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How did I get into this muddle in the first place?
  • Why didn’t our conversation go well?
  • What is the meaning of the issue between my partner and I?
  • What are the sources of our gridlock on this subject?

Most importantly, ask yourself: “What was the conversation we needed to have, but didn’t?”

The ultimate goal in the aftermath of a fight is to have dialogue about the underlying issues that started it. Miscommunication, or a lack thereof, can cause further unnecessary conflict. Relationship conflict should be seen as an opportunity to work together and grow as a couple.

As you work to understand the dreams, hopes, and aspirations that lie beneath your conflict, you deepen your understanding of each other, and grow closer than ever. Practicing Turning Towards, investing in your Emotional Bank Account, and building your Love Maps are not only tools that you can use to strengthen your relationship, but utilizing these skills to manage conflict is critical to maintaining a healthy, happy, and loving relationship.

Here is Dr. Gottman on Anderson Cooper, summarizing “How to Fight Right”:


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Manage Conflict: Moving Forward
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.