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The 3 Stages of Conflict and How You Can Calmly Navigate Them

A couple sitting on a couch looking upset

Out of all the things we were taught in school, safely navigating conflict was not one of them. When you fight with your partner correctly, conflict should deepen your connection and intimacy between you two, not result in slamming doors and hurt feelings.

This post will help you learn how to fight fairly with your partner through the 3 stages of conflict.

Pre-Conflict: The Build Up

The pre-conflict stage is the quiet before the storm where emotions simmer beneath the surface. There's so much that happens internally before the "we need to talk" moment.

 Let's break it down!

There are two things you need to do during the pre-conflict stage: 1. understand you and your partner's conflict style and 2. self-discovery. Both of these things need to happen BEFORE you're fighting with your partner.

Understanding your partner's conflict style

Before diving headfirst into an argument, it's important to understand your partner's conflict style. Knowing how they typically approach everyday disagreements can help you anticipate their reactions and understand their perspective better. Plus, it allows you to tailor your approach to conflict resolution in a way that resonates with them.

Equally important is understanding what your partner needs during conflict – whether it's space, reassurance, or active listening. By taking the time to discuss these aspects of conflict before emotions get heated, you can navigate disagreements more effectively together and work towards resolutions that strengthen your relationship.

Self-discovery before conflict

I always recommend that my clients take a moment for self-discovery before hashing out a disagreement with their partner. Taking just a few minutes to reflect on your feelings and motivations helps you communicate your needs better.

Here are some questions I like to ask myself before facing conflict with my partner:

  • What is the motivation driving me to bring this up?

  • What is the outcome I want?

  • What is the request I am making?

  • How am I contributing to this issue?

Remember, hashing out a disagreement with your partner when you're emotionally charged NEVER ends well.

The Trenches of Conflict

Here's the deal with the conflict stage of conflict—it's a make-or-break moment that determines whether this conflict will bring you and your partner closer or drive you further apart. Knowing the communication do's and don'ts are the best way to make sure a fight brings you closer together.

The Rule of 1

The rule of 1 is a strategy I love to use with the couples that I work with. It allows each partner to feel completely heard and keeps the discussion on track. The rule is simple: stay focused on one topic at a time and allow one person to speak at a time. When the first person speaking feels like they have shared what they wanted to say, then the second person can speak.

Actively Listening to Understand

Actively listening to understand, not just to reply, is key for couples in conflict. When you're in the heat of the moment, it's easy to formulate your response while your partner is talking. If you're only focused on what you're going to say next, you're missing out on what your partner is truly saying. Actively listening means tuning in to what your partner is saying, not just the words, but the emotions behind them.

When both partners commit to this kind of listening, it opens up a whole new level of understanding and empathy. Suddenly, it's not about who's right or wrong; it's about connecting on a deeper level and finding solutions together. It'll make all the difference, trust me!

Take Breaks If Needed

When the tension is thick, and you feel like you're on the brink of saying something you'll regret to your partner, taking a break is OKAY. Taking a break does NOT mean you're avoiding the issue; it's about giving each other some space to cool down, collect your thoughts, and intentionally engage. Emotionally charged discussions NEVER end well!

Before you each take a break from the argument make sure you agree on a specific time frame to revisit the conversation and who will initiate the conversation


After the dust settles from a disagreement, it's check-in time. This is when you and your partner touch base to ensure there aren't any lingering bad vibes or unresolved issues hanging over your heads. This is also the perfect moment to reaffirm your love and commitment to making things work.

Remember that plan you came up with together to resolve the issue that caused the conflict? Well, now's the time to put it into action, showing that it's not just talk but a real commitment to change. THIS is where the real magic of conflict happens – trust is built and the desire to keep growing together gets a little stronger.

So, there you have it, my friends! Conflict isn't a taboo; it's a natural part of relationships. Use this blog post as a road map and you can navigate through the 3 stages of conflict and create your dream relationship. You know, the one with all the good stuff – passion, desire, excitement, and that warm comforting feeling of safety.

If you need more support, I invite you (see what I did there?) to check out my 1-1 services.

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