We are all sure that having peace and harmony in our relationships keeps us healthy, vital and productive. We all know that, on the other hand, conflict can make us tense, sick and unhappy…only because we are scared of its consequences.

Unfortunately, harmony gets broken because we don't know how to manage our daily conflicts without hurt. Nobody has taught us how to defend our needs, while managing the daily inevitable confrontations with grace and love.

Having open, harsh conflicts, and antagonizing your loved one will destroy bonds, create very stressful situations, and turn off any romance. Conflict seems to be the very stuff of life, bringing up all the most difficult emotions ¬ anger, mistrust, resentment, loneliness ¬ and the saddest outcomes. It makes you sad, depressed, but also unhealthy.

A broken heart is not only a metaphor, but a reality: The physical consequences of aggression and fighting are felt in the whole body much longer after a strong discussion ends. High conflict situations can literally and really make your heart suffer from the elevated stress level.

One single, very mean fight can cause a long lasting damage to your vital love relationship!

Is better for you to learn to frame conflict in a different way. Forget your first reaction as being attacked, forget about defending yourself. Even when your brain screams at you about the need for self-defense....STOP!

Forget this knee-jerk reaction! Have a deep breath! If this is a conflict with a loved one, remember instead that generating a conflict is a way, for this person of relating to you it is a way of calling out for your support, connection and recognition. Learn to see only this search for connection underneath the confrontational words. If you deny this basic fact of life, you will be enmeshed in very nasty situations, escalating disputes in a cruel way where there was a lot of love. It is very easy to win the logical battle, and pay the emotional price later of losing the war: to be left a "winner" without love or recognition!

There are endless conflict opportunities....Have you been in this same spot lately?

You are peacefully watching your favorite TV show when you are abruptly interrupted by your partner entering the room as if you were not present, and beginning to "click" the remote with no warning, leaving you to your normal behavior of storming out of the living room in stony silence. Did you wish then and there, that you knew some way of making him see the rudeness of his behavior without upsetting him? So some learning for the future could happen?

After how many of those "deadly combat situations," do you see yourself becoming lonelier and more isolated than ever? Sometimes you won, only to feel that it was an empty victory, because you are not either more loved or respected. There is a pervasive belief that there are "no alternatives for us," but to fight to win. As you know, if you can admit it, in human relationships by "winning over others," you lose big time.

NOW, you are probably asking yourself:

Is there any other way to resolve conflicts other than to have a winner and a loser? Can anybody develop skills to do things differently? Can I get whatever I want or need, without fighting? Or, even better, can I get it with the other person's cooperation and support?

Here is a list of basic indications to help you see conflict in another way, not as a win-lose competition, but as an invitation to follow a process…. Until now, you wanted to win in each confrontation, by convincing the other side how wrong he or she was, right? It didn't work! Are you ready now to give up this way of thinking? Remember that a conflict is a challenge to explore what you need to know about your partner, about the relationship, and about yourself.

Here we go, the easy steps to clarify and manage your conflicts:

• Explore your feelings.
Why are you so upset? Explore your reaction to the event and see if you are responding to the present situation or reliving a past hurtful event. Has the same situation (getting rejected or ignored?) happened to you in the past? Does it look similar to the one that happened then and there? Perhaps you are reacting to that situation, and not the present one…. See if this issue is really about you and your significant other or you and someone from your past.

•Talk and Listen
As difficult as it can be, finding a constructive manner in which to air grievances provides an open and honest relationship. You need to have some agreement arrived at before there is a serious fight, where both of you say what to do. Are you going to schedule a time to talk? Or a chill out session? How about finding ways of calming anger? Establish a system by which you two agree to a fair fight, so you have the rules of engagement ready….and know what to do before hurting each other.
It is important to have an environment of respect where both can express how and why you feel a certain way and freely discuss your reactions.

Recommended steps for resolving conflict are as follows:

• Agree to reach a resolution.

Many of us take a fight-or-flight approach to conflict, sometimes only to make our point stick. You and your future partner are on the same side of the same team, which is difficult to remember when you are in a heated argument. Resolution is defined as both parties compromising to reach a solution. It is not about one person getting his way and the other person caving in to manipulation or feeling defeated.

• Identify what you want.

Be responsible for your own side and offer your information about your needs and wants. See what you and your partner can work out for a mutually satisfying resolution. Your partner cannot give you want you want if you don't have the courage to ask for it.

• Generate options and possible solutions.

Be willing to back up your requests and desires with a solution that is mutually satisfactory. Sometimes we say no to a new way of doing things simply because we have not thought of an alternative. Back up your statement with a good argument that is reasonable, and see the reaction. Don't force a solution that has not the complete approval of the other side…or you will be back at the issue in dispute very soon.

• Choose mutual action.

Resolving conflict does not mean to take on more responsibility simply because it is easier than arguing, but sometimes it happens in this way. A relationship is a partnership, a joint effort to shoulder your own part of the deal. If one person ends up being responsible for making the union work on every level, resentment will build up and it will not last. Sometimes men are less articulate, but it does not mean that you shy from a deep compromise to do your best to solve the issue.

• Evaluate the outcome.

If the first solution doesn't work, don't be afraid to revisit the issue and make changes. Many times what seems doable in theory is flawed in reality. Do not chastise your partner, for that only will encourage avoidance in the future with other issues. What you need to build up is on the practice to share the discussion over the issue, the search for solutions and the agreement to do things in a different way.

• Reinforce the emotional aspect at each step.

Send messages of appreciation for the effort that the other side is doing. It is important to keep the conversation in a respectful and appreciative mood, and to say frequently that you are thankful for that. You are building now strategies of good communication that will last for ever.

Looks like a good plan? Well, relationships are based on emotional processes, where we need daily doses of support and appreciation….if only we could remember that every day!

If the prospect of learning how to do "fair fighting with a loved one," (while preserving the relationship) has called your attention, then you are on the right track. Nora Femenia’s ebook: "The Art of Positive Conflicts: Transforming Confrontations into Relationship Harmony," which can be downloaded now, pressing this link: http://www.positiveconflicts.com can help you to understand and apply the fair fight concept easily!

Author's Bio: 

Nora Femenia, Ph.D. is a bi-lingual relationship and conflict coach, working from Florida.