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7 Steps for Healthy Conflict Resolution in Your Marriage That Make a Difference

The ultimate test of a relationship: can you disagree while holding hands?

After Ryan and Heather finally tied the knot, they started having some pretty intense arguments. These escalated quickly and soon became so emotionally charged that there was definitely no honor or respect in those moments.


Heather became absolutely devastated. She was sure that their marriage was falling apart and even became fearful that a divorce could be in their future. 


See, Heather felt conflict should be handled on the spot. She didn’t want a situation to go one minute further than it needed to.


Ryan on the other hand, he’s the type of guy who needs a breather. He needs time to think things through, cool off, and then come back with a clear mind.


Heather doesn’t understand this about Ryan, and the next thing you know… she’s headed down a slippery slope that ends in a mucky pit of resentment, sadness, and hopelessness.


Here’s what these newlyweds (and really all couples) need to remember — conflict in marriage will happen. It’s inevitable, and it’s completely normal. The key to whether our relationships stay stuck or grow and thrive is how we handle our disagreements  


Once Heather realized that conflict wasn’t the same as failure — their relationship was transformed. They started investing time in resources and tools to gain the skills needed for healthy conflict resolution in their marriage.


With that in mind, we want to share 7 strategies for healthy conflict resolution that can truly make a difference in your marriage.


1. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Take the time to really listen to your spouse. Hear their concerns or thoughts on the matter and try to do so without making a mental list of comebacks. It’s amazing how you can hear something completely different than what your partner actually said if you have the wall of defense up!


When you do go to speak, take a breath first. Then be thoughtful of the words you use. Be kind, even if it’s crazy hard. Speak truth, but do it with respect.


2. Be humble about your mistakes.

Be honest about what you’ve done wrong, and let your spouse do the same. Share your thoughts, your feelings, and do so with humility. Vulnerability can feel like a scary word, but it’s vital for a healthy marriage. 


After you’ve opened your heart, apologize if needed. Apologies are powerful. Saying “I’m sorry,” expresses that you truly care about what you did and are accepting responsibility for your behavior and how it affected the other person.


Better yet, saying “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” addresses the barrier that may have been created by the offense and helps open the door to restoring trust. 


3. Hold hands even when you don’t want to. 

I know, I know. The last thing you want to do is be touched by your spouse when tensions are elevated. We get it. Maybe you’re good at crossing your arms and making sure there’s a big, blinking ‘Don’t Touch’ sign going off. Maybe you’d like a wide table between you.


Regardless of the reason we might want to pull away, the act of holding hands accomplishes something rather magical. 


Reaching for each other’s hands creates a connection and helps diffuse the heightened emotions immediately.  After all, it’s kind of tough to argue with someone you’re holding hands with! It’s also a reminder that the person you’re fighting with is the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with.


Don’t believe it? Try it! You have nothing to lose, right? 


4. Stay away from the phrase “You Always…” or “You Never…”

Here are two phrases that you should never use during an argument. They’re considered all-or-nothing phrases, and they can cut deep. They’re typically exaggerated and inaccurate, and practically guarantee that your partner will immediately go on the defensive.


Instead, be specific with your statements. Try to focus on right now, not the past. Use “I” instead of “you”. “I feel like you’re not listening to me right now,” instead of “You never listen to me.


It makes a world of a difference, you’ll see!


5. Name-calling is never the way to go. 

All it does is increase the conflict leading to dirty fighting and regret. Calling names might be easy for some to fall into, but nothing good will ever come from it. Want to avoid unnecessary hurt and pain? Leave it out altogether.


In marriage, it’s not about one person winning. It’s about US winning together. You’re a team. When you hurt your partner, you also hurt US. When you lift your partner, you lift US.


6. Take a breather when you need it. 

Way easier said than done, right?!


What’s the one thing that seems to go right out the window when you’re in an argument? Calmness. But it’s one of the best conflict resolution strategies you can have. It takes practice, and if you haven’t mastered it yet, you can still learn to pause and call a time-out before everyone loses their cool.


Recognizing you need to slow down before things escalate is a sign of maturity and love for your partner. 


You can ask for forgiveness for something you said or did carelessly, but you can’t undo it or the consequences. Why not commit now to taking a moment to stop, think clearly, and regain composure the next time you feel a heated argument coming on?


7. Stay focused on the future.

For a relationship to succeed and thrive, avoid getting bogged down by the little things. Be proactive when you see things that need to be addressed and keep your eyes on the bigger picture: Your hopes, your dreams, your goals together.


This focus should help inspire you to work together when conflict arises. 


Disagreements are going to happen in your marriage.

Every marriage has seasons of growth and yes, even challenges. What matters most is how you deal with them.


Listen openly, speak kindly, stay humble, show affection, stay calm, and focus on the blessings in your marriage. Don’t be afraid to dream together and create a vision for what your marriage will be like in the years to come. 


Jordan Harrell, a blogger, says; 


“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. We are refusing, and because of that, we’re getting better. That makes our marriage perfect. And yours just might be, too.”


Want a marriage that thrives?

If you’re interested in more foundational tools to build a strong and successful marriage, check out our Resource Center to explore classes, events, and other great resources!