A Mediator’s Tips for Successfully Addressing Conflict in a Relationship

In AZ reconciliation mediations – mediations to help couples preserve their relationship – parties often ask me for tips to help minimize conflicts in the

Reconciliation Mediation in Arizona

Reconciliation Mediation in Arizona

marriage/partnership. The following are some tips to help disputes from getting out of hand.

1. What are you more committed to? When you have a complaint with your spouse, first decide: are you more committed to your marriage or being right? Many couples initiate an argument with the goal of getting their partner to admit the error of his/her ways and apologize. People rarely apologize, and people rarely admit they are wrong when they feel cornered. Therefore, if getting the other party to admit defeat is your goal, your efforts may only damage your relationship. If you are committed to your relationship more than you are committed to being right, spend some time thinking about what practical outcome you would really like and whether a conversation is necessary and useful. Depending on the problem, you may decide to let some concerns go – even if your spouse is wrong.

2. Choose your battles. Some issues are not worth the fight. Some of your spouse’s habits and personality traits are worth putting up with for the sake of a peaceful marriage. If you are the only one who cleans the house, despite your consistent complaints, maybe cleaning the house is a worthwhile cost in exchange for the benefit of being married to someone you love. Or maybe there is another option, like hiring a maid. Maybe it is worth accepting your partner’s less desirable traits in consideration or his/her many good traits.

3. Phrase your concern in a way that is most likely to elicit a positive response. People who feel attacked rarely respond positively. Try to “pitch” your concern in a way that does not come across as a personal attack and that sounds like it is an issue that you both can overcome together. Ask questions and solicit mutually agreeable solutions. Think about which of the following methods is most likely to illicit positive change:

a. “You are constantly wasting money! With the rate you are going, I will never be able to retire!” Or:

b. “Do you think we can do a better job of saving money? What suggestions do you have?”

It may also be helpful to explain how you feel about certain things using “I” statements and without making assumptions. For example: “I feel slighted when you are constantly taking phone calls when we are together” instead of: “You are always on the phone – you love your clients more than me!”

4. Listen. Few people actually listen when another person talks. We assume we know what the other person is going to say and turn off our brain while the other person talks. In the alternative, we format our response while the other person is talking, thereby missing the communication. Practice active listening. Repeat your understanding of what your spouse said to make sure you understood it. Ask clarifying questions. Ask your spouse to state what he/she understood you said as well. Often, people just want you to hear what they have to say and understand them, and that is enough to resolve the issue.

5. Select the right time to have the discussion. If you or your spouse is agitated, it may be best to delay the conversation to a time that you both are calm. When angry, we are more likely to push buttons, bring up old disagreements and otherwise approach the dispute in a way that is going to only escalate conflict.


6. Be generous. Marriage/relationships are not 50/50 propositions, where each party must meet each other half way. Successful marriages are those in which each party gives 100 percent. Choose to be generous. Give compliments. Take on more of the responsibility. Remember that this is the person you love, and generosity begets generosity. It will pay dividends in the end. Even if it doesn’t, you will know you gave your all to make your relationship work.

7. Fight clean. Create ground rules at a time you are not in conflict. For example, agree that, no matter how angry or upset you are: no threats, no button pushing, no bringing up irrelevant past conflicts and no name calling. Treat each other with respect. Do not talk to your spouse in a manner that you would not talk to your boss (or someone that you love and/or respect). Whatever you are fighting about – remember your ultimate commitment and goals and act accordingly.

8. Mediate. If you cannot reach consensus, it is often helpful to have a neutral third party (a mediator) help. The mediator can help couples establish ground rules, discuss issues in an effective manner, and commit any agreements to writing, if the parties believe a written agreement would be helpful.

Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona@sglawaz.com. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice or counseling advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.

Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC

8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7

Scottsdale, AZ 85260


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Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E Butherus Dr, Suite #7 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Phone: (480) 998-1500