Conflict is a healthy part of any relationship, according to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center. Successfully working through conflicts actually strengthens relationships, but only if both partners use fair fighting techniques. Whether your tendency is to hide from conflict or to become enraged, unhealthy fighting can destroy a relationship. To stand your ground without causing damage, focus on what you want and seek solutions that work for both of you.
Setting Personal Boundaries
Successful conflict resolution begins with personal boundaries. These are like small fences that define your personal space. While your boyfriend is probably welcome to enter your space further than a casual acquaintance, you need to set limits and stick to them to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Think through the times when your boyfriend has made you feel invaded or taken for granted. Decide what you are willing to let go, and which limits are truly important. Communicate those limits gently but firmly, and realize that you are not responsible for how he reacts. It takes time to set and maintain boundaries, but standing your ground becomes easier when you have a healthy sense of self outside of your relationship.
Using Healthy Assertiveness
Assertiveness is a communication style that allows you to express your needs and desires while acknowledging the needs and desires of someone else, according to mental health expert Madeline Vann in an article for "Everyday Health." While aggression puts your needs ahead of everyone else’s, and passivity puts others’ needs ahead of your own, assertiveness is a balanced style that leads to win-win situations. To become assertive in your relationship, begin your statements with the word “I.” You might say, “I feel uncomfortable when I don’t know what time you’re coming over,” or “I need an hour to myself when I get home from class.” Be honest and direct, and refuse to engage in circular arguments. If your boyfriend becomes enraged or illogical, take some time out until the emotions calm down.
In “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” Roger Fisher and William Ury point out the importance of staying objective in negotiations. Remember that you and your boyfriend are partners, and you’re ultimately on the same side. Discuss factual situations rather than attacking each other personally. Work together to identify the facts of the issue and the objective criteria by which those facts can be measured. Generate agreement on exactly what you are discussing before trying to fix the problem.
Focusing on Solutions
Fisher and Ury also note that negotiations are most successful when they are solution-oriented. Note the areas in which your interests align. For example, you might both be interested in arguing less frequently. Use that common ground as a starting point for brainstorming options to achieve your common goal. Work together to generate a list of solutions, and then to eliminate options that aren’t practical or don’t make sense. Gradually, you will zero in on the solution that works best for both of you.
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