How Do You Deal With
Conflict in Your Relationship?

We’re all faced with two forms of conflict in life: 1.) Productive and creative conflict, which moves us toward our goals, and 2.) Destructive and unresolvable conflict that builds up without resolution.


In our latest book, The Heart of the Fight, we explore how many of us are raised with the notion that conflict is always bad and should be avoided. In reality, if you follow the rules of engagement and fight FOR the relationship (rather than against), conflict is healthy and productive.

The Conflict Monster

When we avoid conflict, our resentments become bigger and bigger, growing into this explosive monster ready to leap out full-force at our loved ones sometime down the road. Conflict has to be aired and brought out in the open. Otherwise, we see passive-aggressive actions, bitterness, and resentment eroding that connection between two people and creating distance over time.

There’s also another kind of monster: the person who ignites destructive conflict in a relationship because they’re a bully or acting too dominant. Beating the other person up emotionally or constantly tearing them down can also destroy a relationship. Relationships are based on mutual respect and love. If you love someone, you don’t dominate them. You might not agree with them, but you don’t engage in overt bullying or mean behavior.

In either case, it’s time to rid yourself of your monster. Most often, bringing conflict into the open is a win-win situation. Conflict brings out our deeper yearnings and feelings that might not already be in the light. When everyone is open and honest and engaging in the conflict, issues can be addressed and discussed. And yes, you can even fight about them (as long as you follow the rules of engagement)!

The Rules of Engagement

We’ve developed a set of rules to help you better engage in productive relationships. (We talk about these a lot in The Heart of the Fight!) Three of the most important are: 1. You must assume 100% responsibility for your own happiness and satisfaction, 2. No one gets more than 50% of the blame, and 3. Agree with and express the truth, always.

Think about how you engage with your partner when you’re fighting. Do you follow these rules of engagement?

When we start slinging around blame or saying, “It’s all your fault,” or “You did that on purpose,” we aren’t taking responsibility for our part in the situation. Similarly, if we cower down and say, “You’re always right, and I’m so stupid and wrong,” we’re taking more blame than our fair share. Blame is always equal for both parties.

Why is blame equal? Because each party is 100% responsible for their own satisfaction, meaning that if something isn’t satisfying you, it’s your job to bring it up and get it out in the open. If you are 100% responsible for your own satisfaction, you can’t blame the other guy for “making” you feel a certain way. It’s up to you to take control of your emotions and get your yearnings out there. If your yearnings aren’t being met, it’s up to you to speak up and say, “Hey, I need this!”

You must always agree with the truth as it comes up in conflict. This can be difficult, but it’s also a matter of trust. It’s okay to be angry about the other person’s rightness in the argument or be annoyed about a situation and express that, but you still have to admit the truth when it’s there. Admitting the truth shows you are trustworthy and keeps trust in the relationship.

Understanding the Deeper Conflict in Your Relationship

We each come into relationships with our own history and baggage. Maybe it’s something you’ve experienced from siblings, the way your dad reacted to finances, or the way your mother withheld physical affection. Everyone has a past, so when we walk into a relationship, we’re not a blank slate—we’re the whole of our history, our interactions, and our emotional experiences.

We have to understand that our partner is walking into the relationship carrying his or her own history and emotional “stuff.” When we put them together, conflict is going to rise. There’s always a balance for power and control. We spend the first years of a relationship just trying to get a handle on our dynamic and wrestling with how we can resolve our needs and meet the needs of our partner.

Essentially, we are bound to be involved in conflict. Conflict can either result in growth and productivity or damage and destruction. The choice is all yours.

If you’re communicating honestly and openly with your partner, then you’re going to let them know when they do something hurtful. You’re also going to let them know you appreciate them and try to listen to their truths carefully and openly.

We hold back because we fear the reaction or the conflict. Then we go around giving our partner the hidden middle finger, expecting them to pick up on our cues and sense something is wrong. This kind of hidden behavior doesn’t get the message across. Instead, we need to take 100% of the responsibility for our own emotions and tell our partner how we feel.

Engage in the conflict and allow it to help you discover your personal power and energize your life.

Join us our upcoming More Life Training (March 11th-March 13th in Chicago, Illinois) to learn how you can ignite the world around you.

Email us at hello@wrightliving.com if you have a question or discussion for our weekly Wright Living podcast.


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Love Is Messy:
Learn the Secret to
Awesome Relationships

Life is messy. Love is messier. Why? Because life and love are full of conflict. Conflict is the very basis for life as we know it; we are born of struggle and growth.


Whether you tend to embrace it or shy away from it, successful, happy relationships require conflict. When we don’t develop our engagement and conflict skills, we end up as bullies or wimps: either we avoid everything or we plow over everyone in our path. That’s no way to live.

Time and time again, I hear people say they want intimacy, but they don’t want the mess. To have real intimacy, there must be conflict and vulnerability. Intimacy involves putting yourself out there, engaging, and letting yourself be seen in the truth of who you are.


“If you want true love, you will need to feel everything: the fear, hurt, anger, and sadness, as well as joy and bliss.”

–from The Heart of the Fight


Getting Real and Fighting Fair

Here are a couple of the common relationship myths we bust in The Heart of the Fight:

  • Conflict resolution doesn’t lead to great relationships.
  • The purpose of a relationship ISN’T to make you happy; it’s to make you your best.

That’s why conflict is so important. It’s the root of lasting satisfaction. Conflict isn’t just about being right or wrong. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, either. It’s about letting out the truth and making your truth known.

When we avoid fights and stop engaging with each other, we become passive aggressive. When this happens, we try to act like we’re being nicey-nice toward our partner, when we’re actually holding back and bottling up our feelings. Those feelings have to come out somewhere, so we end up doing all kinds of little things just to “show them” how we feel—without actually showing them anything. We call it the “hidden middle finger”—we get silent, we do things to purposely piss off our partner. We pout around expecting they’ll get the hint.

These actions don’t help the relationship grow. Instead, when we’re being honest and agreeing with the truth—always (one of our rules of engagement), there’s no room for passive aggressive actions.

Here’s another great rule of engagement: we must fight FOR the relationship, not against it. That means sometimes you have to outright declare what it is you’re truly fighting for. Maybe you’re fighting for acknowledgement. Maybe you’re fighting to meet a yearning, like to be seen and heard, or to be valued. Whatever you’re fighting for, you have to embrace the messiness. Fight hard for the things you want, and get your partner to fight alongside you. If you’re both fighting for, rather than against the relationship, you’ll be able to resolve conflict in much more satisfying and growth-focused ways.

Really Going At It? Anger is OK!

Ever since we were little kids, we’ve been told to get along, not to fight, and to agree with things as much as possible. We’re told to listen to each other and not to interrupt. Unfortunately, this can lead to conflict-avoidant behavior, which becomes the complete opposite of intimacy.

When you need to be heard, it’s okay to yell. It’s okay to be angry and let it all out. Your partner has the right to express their feelings as well—as long as you each take 100% responsibility for your own emotions and feelings and you’re not placing more than 50% of the blame on one side (two more rules of engagement from our book). Too often, we find ourselves bitching and moaning about our partner, “venting” about the things they aren’t doing. The essence of complaining is to punish someone for something we want that’s not happening.

Complaining doesn’t get us anywhere.

Instead, we should be expressing our yearnings to our partner. We should be telling them what we want and how we feel. We should both be engaged and fired up, because our relationship is so important to us that we’re willing to take the gloves off and go all out to improve and grow within our relationship.

The Real Secret to Awesome Relationships

Healthy relationships are dynamic, alive, and engaged. Everyone in the relationship is expressing themselves and saying what they want. They’re putting their yearnings out there and taking responsibility for their satisfaction. They aren’t blaming someone else for the way they feel and no one is playing the victim.

In healthy relationships, we’re always caring about our partner’s needs as well as our own. We assume goodwill in the relationship. We want to help our partner meet their yearnings. We’re both fighting toward the health and evolution of the relationship. We are honest and we’re being seen for who we really are.

Love is a complex and messy dance. It’s revealing ourselves, shifting, and learning how to get closer and gain a deeper understanding of our partner. It’s exciting as we develop increasing trust. We can be vulnerable and honest about who we are, and we grow to let our guard down and be truly intimate with each other. We evolve with our partner and move towards a deeper and greater understanding—and that is a beautiful thing.

Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio or here on iTunes.
Check Out Lifestyle Podcasts at BlogTalkRadio with Wright Living on BlogTalkRadio.

To learn more about how you can deepen your growth and move toward a greater understanding of yourself and your relationships with others, join us for our More Life Training. Our focus this year is unlocking your personal power. Learn how to engage, ignite, and energize your life and connect with those around you.

About the Author

Bob-300x250-1

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Image courtesy of Flickr user pinkmarina licensed under CC by 2.0.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.