Relationships take work. Every relationship has its moments where you just feel stuck. Maybe you feel powerless to change things, maybe you feel stressed and overwhelmed, maybe conflict seems like it’s at an all time high. When our relationships feel out of whack, we feel the effects in many other areas of our lives. Stress and conflict can spill over to work, parenting, and relationships with others.

While relationship conflict can sometimes feel like a swirling storm, it is important to realize that you do have control. One of the first things that you can do is to take accountability for your part. This can be an extremely difficult first step. It is much easier to look at one’s partner and think, you are causing me this pain! When it comes down to it, however, a relationship takes two people to work and also to become imbalanced.

One of the keys to smoothing out conflict for committed couples is to learn tools to communicate more effectively. This can be a process, and may take some time to figure out what works best for your relationship. Here are just a few simple steps to take to communicate better when you feel stuck.

  • Take a step back: reevaluate things, give yourself time outside the conflict to reflect on it. Negotiate literal timeouts with your partner while in conflict. Calmly tell your partner you need a five minute break, or that you will discuss the issue tomorrow.
  • Use a soft startup: focus on your emotional experience of an event, avoid blaming or criticizing your partner
  • Truly listen to your partner: take in and acknowledge what they have to say, even when you don’t agree with it
  • Seek therapy– yes, sometimes a neutral party is necessary, a trained couples therapist can help you map your conflict and provide you with tools to move past it