10 Tips for Conflict Resolution in Marriage and Divorce

Robin M. Mermans, Esq
September 21, 2023

As a licensed mediator and family law attorney, I have over a decade of experience in conflict resolution. When facilitating a journey through ROAD to RESOLUTION, a divorce mediation and collaborative family law firm in Charlotte, our team is helping to settle conflict and resolve disputes.

These cases don’t always end in divorce, either. Occasionally, a spouse will seek pre-divorce education and realize that divorce isn’t their ideal resolution. While my firm focuses on family law and divorce, there are other instances when mediation can be used to settle disputes with neighbors, co-workers, family members, or business partners. As an expert in conflict resolution, I’m sharing guidance for resolving conflict in marriage and in divorce.

Below you’ll find my top 10 tips for a current spouse or soon-to-be former spouse when handling conflict in a healthy, positive, and calm manner:

1. Create a Safe Space for Conversation

Give some thought as to where you should have your conversation. Sometimes this can make all the difference during a disagreement or argument. When together, find a quiet, private, and comfortable spot where you can be alone. In-person conversations are recommended as you can read body language; however, we understand that sometimes that’s not an option. If you’re apart from one another, try to approach the issue via phone call rather than text or email. Tone of voice is important in conversation and sometimes this can be misinterpreted when it is typed out and not verbal.

2. Understand the Other Perspective

No matter how heated your discussion becomes, try to take yourself out of the situation and look at the issue from the other perspective. Put yourself in the position of your spouse or ex-spouse. Believe me, I completely understand how difficult this can be – especially during separation and divorce. I encourage my clients to consider the other person’s feelings as they work toward a compromise and resolution.

3. Allow Self-Reflection

Even though we may not want to admit it, sometimes we’re the ones at fault. It’s easy to get caught up in an argument and not remember how it started. This is a great opportunity to self-reflect. We need to take care of ourselves first and sometimes that translates into conflict resolution as well. Admit your mistakes and explain what you can do better in the future. Acknowledge that no one is perfect and that includes you.

4. Choose Your Battles

Choosing your battles in conflict can be difficult, but it has benefits. In the moment, sometimes every battle seems worth it. Well, 20 minutes later, you might change your mind and it may not seem worth it anymore. While disagreements can be healthy in a relationship, they certainly don’t have to be a common occurrence. Know what type of issue deserves a conversation and what type of issue is a pass. However, don’t let conflict bottle up to the point that you feel like you’re going to explode. Find the balance and prioritize your battles.

5. Respond Intentionally

It’s important to handle conflict with intention and respond with purpose. Take time to formulate your thoughts. When you feel yourself getting heated, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and count to 10 before responding. These intentional response steps have helped me in various types of disagreement, argument, or dispute.

6. Avoid Judgmental Language

Your words matter and they will be remembered. Use your voice with care and kindness, even when frustrated. Be curious as to why your partner feels the way they feel or does what they do. Ask them to elaborate by prompting questions that encourage answers. Phrases like “help me understand…” will be more meaningful in conflict resolution than judgmental phrases like “you always…”

7. Stick to the Issue at Hand

Determine the underlying issue and focus on it. Many conflicts arise from a symptom of the real problem. Figure out the actual issue that's controlling what is being said and stick with it. Sometimes, one issue that sparks conflict snowballs into several more issues that had nothing to do with the initial conflict. Discuss one topic at a time. Don’t let old problems or previous disputes reenter your new conversation.

8. Grant Grace and Forgiveness

No matter how strong and loving your relationship is, conflict is unavoidable. It will come and when it does, allow yourself to give grace and forgiveness. These gifts are the protectors of a healthy relationship and allow mindfulness and understanding. Grant yourself and your partner grace and forgiveness in abundance.

9. Find Common Ground

Disputes typically begin because you or your partner care about something. Maybe it’s your children, your career, your friendships, your house, your pets, your favorite TV show… the list can go on and on. As you work toward a resolution, try to find common ground. For instance, if my ex-husband and I have an argument over an issue with our children, we’ll work to resolve that issue. We know that our common ground is that we both love our children and want what’s best for them. Sometimes, there is no right or wrong and we have to agree to disagree. We do this because we know that’s what is best for our two children. We are committed to being good co-parents and we respect the other as a parenting partner.

10. Know When to Take a Time-Out

If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, maybe you need to take a break. Conflict resolution can be difficult. It’s often emotionally draining and can result in a plethora of feelings. There is nothing wrong with saying you need a few minutes to yourself to gather your thoughts. The same goes for your partner if they need a time-out. Allow yourselves to recuperate and know what is best for your mental health.

There are many ways to handle conflict and it’s important to choose a method that encompasses care and compassion. Through healthy conflict resolution, you and your spouse can come to a positive and mindful solution. Conflict is often an opportunity to dive deeper into your relationship. You don’t have to fear it or avoid it. Rather, view conflict as a way to better understand each other and strengthen your relationship.

We’re Here to Help

If you need the guidance of a professional divorce mediation and family collaborative law firm, ROAD to RESOLUTION can help. Please give us a call at (980) 260-1600 and we can discuss your legal options. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you and your family.

The ROAD to RESOLUTION Divorce Blog can help you differentiate the fact from the fiction, and guide you towards the support you need during this difficult time. Use our resources and services to find all the info you need—from pre-divorce education to drafting essential legal documents. Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.

Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.

Robin M. Mermans, Esq
Founder and Principal Attorney

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