Our “opponents” are our co-creators, for they have something to give which we have not. The basis of all cooperative activity is integrated diversity.... What people often mean by getting rid of conflict is getting rid of diversity, and it is of the utmost importance that these should not be considered the same. We may wish to abolish conflict, but we cannot get rid of diversity. We must face life as it is and understand that diversity is its most essential feature... Fear of difference is dread of life itself. It is possible to conceive conflict as not necessarily a wasteful outbreak of incompatibilities, but a normal process by which socially valuable differences register themselves for the enrichment of all concerned. . . . Mary Parker Follett

Solving disputes saves expensive and destructive escalation but requires energy and persistence and putting aside short term satisfactions of posturing and vengeance.

Most conflicts resolve when both sides connect with each other. Then they can stop to find out how they feel and what they want and communicate that to each other. Just noticing the real underlying cause of a conflict may be all that is needed.

Conflicts are an opportunity to expand our empathy, patience and communicating skills. And become more aware of ourselves and others, and more genuine, congruent and committed. An opportunity to reorganise relationships, ownership, and boundaries.

Most conflict arises from misunderstanding. Everyone brings hopes and fears and other expectations from their upbringing and past relationships that colour their perception of others.

People from different religious, ethnic or family cultures might not notice that their words and body language are being interpreted differently than they expected..

Most of what we say passes through the filters of our prejudices and intentions, so when we complain about others there is usually something about ourselves that is not sitting well with us. We are mostly describing ourselves and at times of stress probably only ourselves.

If we are uncomfortable with someone it is often because we imagine in them some of our own intentions or values that we don't like or admit. When world leaders run each others countries down their comments usually more accurately describe themselves and their own countries than those they are complaining about.

Someone who had a critical or punitive upbringing may try to communicate with others or change them by making them unhappy.

Criticising personality or character – blaming and accusing.

Diminishing - insults, name calling, mockery, sneering, eye rolling.

Defensive - excuses, denying responsibility.

Cross-complaining – meeting a complaint with a complaint.

Whining – “it isn’t fair” - feeling hard done by or slighted.

Stonewalling (silent, cold, distant, complacent or disapproving) . Wives heart rates go up when their husband stonewalls. Men tend not to get physiologically aroused by stonewalling. They are not so interested in bonding chatter.

Habits of attacking or ignoring a partner disrupt communication and create a cycle of discord and negativity that erodes a relationship. At best resolution is postponed.

In the extreme one or both partners in the heat of the moment stop containing their feelings and stop caring or noticing the effect they are having. Words and emotions that would be unthinkable in public can become routine in private.

When a partner becomes unrestrained then the relationship may no longer be able to contain the conflict. Insults are traded publicly and outsiders are recruited with theatrical displays.

Working out what is happening can be difficult within the complex interplay of intentional and unintentional provocation and offence-taking.

An intimate and very conflictual relationship may be impossible to leave and impossible to stay. It will be traumatising and erode health even if it satisfies both partners. The ups and downs of drug binges and withdrawal perpetuate this kind of relationship.

Not all conflict can be resolved. If a partner adopted rage to deal with abusers or meddlers as a child and discovered power and enjoyment in rage, problem-solving may not appeal. Someone who hates the people they love or cycles between love and hate may be extremely generous, threatening or charming so they can find or keep partners. They may twist history and make up stories to keep conflict alive.

Histrionics can continue for years until their fears diminish, they feel secure and they begin to value the comfort of their partner more than the transient pleasures of tantrums. It may be a matter of hanging in there for them (without of course putting up with more than you can bear).

We get others to take sides or act on our behalf by gaining their empathy or arousing and directing their feelings to wards someone else. It can require a little reflection to work out who is involved in a conflict and where it started.

Compatibility of negotiating styles is important. Some couples like to argue. They express anger and happiness readily and interrupt and try to persuade rather than understand. Their individuality and equality is important to them.

Some like to bargain. Others like to avoid conflict, step back and wait and make light of differences rather than resolve them. They end friction by “agreeing to disagree” and tend to value their independence. Others ignore problems and let time take it’s course.

As long as the conflict resolution style suits both they will resolve their differences.

Set aside times with a set times to begin and finish to think through or talk through problems.

Write down problems and steps towards resolution and come back to them later. let answers come overnight – sleep on it.

Find a relationship book or conflict resolution method that you both like to work through together.

Find meaning, satisfaction and significance in each moment of the discussion or else endure to find that meaning soon.

Welcome, acknowledge and communicate emotions. The invisible barriers to resolution of differences are lifted when both parties no longer have to suppress the intense emotions aroused.

Connecting emotionally with your partner is more important than what you decide about the substance of any difference.

Resolve frustrations as they arise rather than let them build up.

Understand the context and culture of conflict.

Discover the true meaning and impact of the conflict for each other.

Listen – find out what your partner feels - check that you understand - let the other person know that you have understood. Everyone usually does their best as they see it. Resistance means a need is not being met, and is a request for authentic communication.

Be respectful Acknowledge that their opinions and feelings are valid even if you don’t agree.

Make yourself clear. Provide lots of verbal and postural cues.

Be assertive. Communicate what you want – otherwise your partner may not fully understand – don't assume they know.

Say what you would prefer or insist on what you want rather than complain. Tantrums erode goodwill even though you may be right.

Give your partner a chance to succeed in pleasing you. Rather than forcing them to fail to please.

Find the opportunities and positives in a situation – leave the negatives if possible until they can be dealt with.

Resolution lies not in who is right, but in connecting. Shift focus from competition over positions to collaboration to satisfy mutual needs.

Shift from what is being contested to what's in the way.

Put aside problems for a while when thoughts have started to become repetitive.

Mutual understanding comes from self awareness and compassion. A mediator can provide a safe space to take it in turns to exchange feelings and needs.

The awareness therapy pages and the links below suggest ways to approach this. The awareness and relaxation exercises can be a way to prepare.