Fighting Like Friends (Ezine Article)

By Toni Parker | Submitted On May 30, 2007

How do you resolve conflicts amicably with your partner? Well, assuming you do not have irreconcilable differences you can still walk away undamaged and your friendship intact by using “friendly fighting” language and choosing your timing appropriately.

It also helps to in terms of maintaining your relationship to have regular “check in” marker points similar to holding a quarterly review for your business to evaluate how things are going. Making a routine “check up” as part of the health of your relationship adds that extra bit of insurance for those times when you are faced with disagreements.

As for the art of conflict resolution itself, it’s important to first realize that there are different types of conflict. There’s problem solving for issues that arise when maybe one partner has to work a different schedule unexpectedly and you’re suddenly faced with an issue around child care, so you have to figure out what you can do next time to avoid last minute panics. This would be an example of a “solvable problem”.

In fact, most problems can be solved. But what gets in the way is what we call “gridlock” — when either party is willing to give any ground to meet in the middle. Then you have what is called a “perpetual problem” within the relationship which lingers in one form or another. Surprisingly, this too is normal in many relationships. It interesting to note, however, that a certain problem one couple easily solves may turn into gridlock and a perpetual problem for another couple.

Let’s go into a very quick and simple example of gridlock — money being the most common source. I’ll use one of my clients as an example. She wanted her husband to start paying the bills, because she was getting tired of always doing it herself. She also felt that he needed to know something about their finances because if anything ever happened to her, he wouldn’t know what to do.

Yet from the time they were newlyweds he had never shown any interest their finances, even though he’d promise whenever she asked him to get involved. So over the years this pattern of promise and not delivering developed into a perpetual problem. He’d say he would take care of things, but he did so according to his own timeframe and so the bills were never paid on time.

As a result, this caused a lot of resentment and animosity within the relationship. Month after month they’d fight about it, and he would always promise that he’d do it differently next time. But he ran out of next times and his wife finally ended up taking the job back from him and doing it herself.

So by the time they came to see me, she was at her wits end in trying to get him to share in paying the bills. Yet when you realize that a problem is coming up over and over again in your relationship, you also have to start asking yourself, “Is this really worth it?”

If you know your partner is unlikely to ever change in a certain area, maybe you have to decide to accept his idiosyncrasy and start focusing on strengths he has in other areas. Otherwise, she had to be willing to live with her continued resentment and the reality that this perpetual problem, if she did not let go of it, would fuel more arguments in future and even greater gridlock. She decided that she’d rather save her marriage and accept his disinterest in finances.

So, if you have an issue that seems to be played out over and over again in your relationship, you may want to take some time out and decide whether it may just be part of your partner’s personality. Often, it’s that they simply do not have the same emotional investment in that area as you do.

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Toni Parker, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and relationship expert for singles as well as couples, and a sought after speaker internationally. From her private practice in Encino, California, she has become a trusted resource for countless couples world-wide (including Hollywood celebrities) for over 22 years. This wealth of experience along with her engaging presentation style has made her an in demand speaker among Fortune 500 companies and special interest groups worldwide. She’s also a certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist and a Member of the Gottman Relationship Clinic.

To book Toni for a customized presentation or view her most popular workshops and keynotes visit her website at and hit the “workshops” tab. While you’re there, pick up her latest FREE report, 69 Ways to Increase Intimacy.

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