Ah, romance can be a balancing act, especially if you live with your partner. Jess Alberts, Arizona State University president’s professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, has spent recent years researching conflict in personal and professional relationships, including marital conflict, the division of domestic labor and couples’ daily interaction.
To make your relationship with your partner work better, Alberts shares these recommendations for managing conflict:
- Agree with your partner to never do any name calling, ever. “It wounds and it wounds deeply,” Alberts said.
- Look at how you attribute blame or how you react to something your partner does or doesn’t do. How you interpret your partner’s behavior has a significant impact on the reason why you are angry. “We don’t respond to what people do. We respond to the reason that we think they did the behavior,” Alberts said.
- If you have a problem with your significant other’s behavior, ask them about their perspective or why they thought their actions were a good idea. The reasons behind what they did may surprise you. Sometimes people are exhausted and not thinking straight. Or, they may think that you would do the same thing in their situation. Or, they may not have been thinking about you when they made their decision.
- “People usually have reasons for what they do,” Alberts said.
- Be positive. “I tell students that we fall in love with our reflection in our lover’s eyes. This means that part of the reason we love someone else is how they see us and make us feel. It really helps to have that positive attitude when things are going well and especially when you fight,” she said.
- Don’t use your relationship as a source of power. Don’t try to control your partner by telling them what they can and cannot do. “Using your relationship as a source of power doesn’t work very well,” she said. “An argument shouldn’t be about winning. It should be about solving a problem. No one is happy in a relationship where they feel like they have no control and they lose all of the time.”
- Negotiate household tasks and realize that your significant other may have a lower threshold for mess than you do. Things that one person may not even notice can drive another person nuts. Talk about the division of labor in the household and how you’ll handle it if you have different thresholds for clutter.
- Don’t stew in anger. Talk about things before you explode. But, be sure to pick a time to talk that is as good for your partner as it is for you.
About : Jess Alberts is President’s Professor of human communication and has been a faculty member in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication since 1989. Currently she serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project, and Director of Doctoral Studies. Her interests focus on conflict in personal and professional relationships. Alberts teaches courses on human communication, conflict and negotiation, relational communication and work/life balance. She was named the Jeanne Lynd Herberger Professor in 2007. She was selected by the undergraduate association for the Last Lecture Series Award, by the graduate student association for a Mentor Appreciation Award, and by Commission on the Status of Women for the Outstanding Achievement and Contributions Award.