After Disagreements

Sometimes knowing when to pick your battles is better than letting something minor come between you and your partner.

With the basics of handling disagreements covered, let’s delve into some additional skills and considerations.

Additional Tips for Navigating Disagreements

The NVC framework above is a great place to start for addressing issues you may disagree on. Below are some extra tips to keep in mind when discussing issues or conflicts. 

Practice positive communication skills

Utilize the communication skills we’ve practiced throughout this course

Practice the active listening skills, such as using “I” statements and maintaining eye contact. For example, you could say:

  • “I know you aren’t super excited about going to the event, but it’s important to me that you come.”
Be direct, rather than passive-aggressive

When someone is passive aggressive they may be angry but don’t admit it directly. This can include giving someone the silent treatment or saying something nice in a sarcastic way. It’s important to be clear and direct when something upsets us. Otherwise, all we’re doing is building tension, without putting in the work to address it. 

Recognize impact vs. intent

Understand that the impact of your words and actions may differ from your intentions. Acknowledge and take responsibility for the impact of your words or behaviours, and validate your partner’s feelings, even if upsetting them wasn’t your intention. 

  • For example, “Even though I meant it as a joke, it offended you, so I know it was not OK. Next time, I won’t joke about topics like this.” 
Focus on the present issue

During disagreements, it’s important to stay focused on the specific issue at hand rather than bringing up past grievances or unrelated matters.

  • For example, you could say: “I think we’re getting a bit off track, it sounds like the most pressing issue is sorting out where your parents can stay while visiting, let’s sort that out first.”
Compromise and find common ground

Look for areas of agreement and focus on shared goals. Remember, compromising is not about winning or losing; it’s about finding win-win solutions that address both partners’ needs and concerns. 

  • For example, if both your families are expecting you for the holidays, you and your partner may have to work out a compromise. For instance, you can spend Thanksgiving with your family and Christmas with theirs. Or, you can do Christmas Eve with your family and Christmas Day with theirs.

Manage your emotions and recognize theirs

Take breaks if things get heated

Take deep breaths (or use other relaxation techniques) and remind yourself to approach the conversation with a level head. If tensions escalate or emotions become overwhelming, it’s crucial to agree on a specific time to reconvene, then take a break to cool down and gain perspective. 

  • For example, “I’m starting to feel a bit heated and need some air, can we take a break and go over this later in the evening, around 9pm?”
Be empathic

Cultivate empathy by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. Acknowledge their perspective, even if you don’t fully agree. 

Things to avoid saying or doing

  • Avoid cutting your partner off when they are talking: Remember to take turns talking and be patient to let your partner finish communicating their thoughts instead of interrupting them. 
  • Avoid criticism: Criticism goes beyond addressing a specific behaviour or action and involves making personal attacks. 
  • Avoid becoming defensive: It’s important to listen to what your partner has to say and take responsibility for your actions, rather than becoming defensive or playing into the victim role. 
  • Avoid contempt: Contempt involves displaying disrespect, mockery, or a sense of superiority towards your partner. Contempt can manifest through name-calling, sarcasm, eye-rolling, or belittling remarks. It erodes trust, connection, and emotional safety in a relationship. 
  • Minimize stonewalling: Stonewalling occurs when one partner withdraws or shuts down during a conflict. It involves avoiding eye contact, giving the silent treatment, or physically walking away from the conversation. 
  • Ask yourself if it’s worth it? Sometimes a disagreement may just not be worth all the effort you are putting in, so it’s also important to be able to pick your battles or agree to disagree. 

After Disagreements

Even when a disagreement is settled peacefully or a compromise is reached, we don’t want to leave any ill will or tension unaddressed. Below are a few tips to help smooth things over, when needed. 

  • Apologize: If you realize that your words or actions have hurt your partner, offer a sincere apology. Take ownership of your part in the disagreement, express remorse, and be specific about what you’re sorry for. This goes back to the concept of impact vs intent that we discussed above.
  • Practice forgiveness: Forgiveness is a crucial aspect of moving forward after a disagreement. Letting go of grudges and resentment allows both partners to heal and creates space for a healthier future. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what happened, but rather choosing to release negative emotions and focus on rebuilding trust.
  • Reaffirm your commitment: Communicate your dedication, love, and support to your partner. For example, you could say “I know things got a bit heated there but it’s really not a huge deal. I care too much about you to let a disagreement affect my love for you.”
  • Learn from the experience: Reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself, your partner, and your relationship dynamics. Identify any patterns or triggers that may have contributed and explore ways to address them in the future.

Moving forward after a disagreement requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to growth. By embracing forgiveness, apologizing when necessary, and reaffirming your dedication to the relationship, you can create an environment that allows your bond to strengthen and flourish. Remember, each challenge you overcome together brings you closer and can create a foundation for a long-lasting and fulfilling partnership.


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