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One of the hallmarks of a successful relationship is the ability to face and resolve conflicts as they arise. When a relationship is new, many people feel it’s best to let the little things go. Often, the exhilaration of early love makes it easy to overlook problems, or couples may not want to introduce negativity into their relationship too soon.

Many families do not practice good habits of conflict resolution, which means their children grow up without learning useful habits for handling anger or hurt feelings. Many families actually encourage their children to bury negative feelings, not fully understanding the detrimental effects it will have on future relationships. Today’s society has many well-used expressions, and even books, based on an attitude of conflict avoidance, as in “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

The trick is to understand which small stuff to let go, and which to learn to resolve quickly. Too often ignored, it is often the small stuff that begins to erode relationships. Building resentment can eventually lead to much more serious arguments and an undercurrent of anger. The key to handling any kind of conflict is skillful communication, which, rather than escalating problems, is designed to resolve them quickly.

When an issue comes up that needs to be addressed with a partner, it works best to describe the problem calmly and factually. When describing feelings about the issue, it’s important to use “I” statements, and then offer a resolution that will be mutually beneficial. Partners also need to develop good listening habits and to respond respectfully. As couples practice using these simple strategies whenever problems arise, they will feel increasingly confident about their ability to handle conflicts efficiently, with positive results for everyone.

Learning how to handle conflict can have far-reaching effects. These techniques and skills, along with a new sense of confidence, can be used to manage other social, family and work situations. As in most areas of life, balance is the key to success in handling conflict. It doesn’t help when one partner habitually jumps all over the other for every perceived mistake or transgression, but ignoring troubling issues is not helpful either. Learning to communicate directly and objectively as soon as conflicts arise, is the best way to sustain healthy, happy relationships.