Quick Exit


Disagreement and conflict are normal parts of an intimate relationship and learning to resolve conflict in respectful and constructive ways is important for maintaining a healthy relationship. Effective communication is key to managing conflict and allows couples to stay focused on resolving the issue at hand.



If conflict resolution is a significant challenge in your relationship or if conflict escalation is a concern, please contact an appropriate support service. The Government of Canada provides a list of resources related to family violence and crisis services at the following link. 


Things to consider
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Sometimes conflict can become negative and unproductive. Even happy couples will experience conflict where they say things they don’t mean, yell at one another, or shut down. Together, it is essential to figure out ways to effectively “repair” when needed, which means getting things back on track if a conflict is heading in a negative direction.

Using repair strategies that attempt to increase emotional closeness tend to be most helpful, which can include the following: 1,2  

  • vulnerability and self-disclosure (e.g., “I feel…”) 
  • agreeing (e.g., “I agree that …”, “What you’re saying makes sense to me”)  
  • taking responsibility (e.g., “My part in this is…”) 
  • reassurance (e.g., “We’ll figure this out”, “I love you”) 
  • shared humour (e.g., an inside joke you both find funny) 
  • affection (e.g., “I appreciate/admire that you…”) 
  • apologizing (“I’m sorry”, “Let me say that in a gentler way”) 
  • interrupting an escalation (“Let’s start again”, “I need a minute”) 

A foundation of friendship and respect is key.  Taking the time to build and maintain a close, loving relationship helps with effectively managing conflict when it arises. 

Exploring conflict resolution styles

There are different ways to understand and define conflict resolution styles. Kurdek3 outlined four conflict resolution styles that individuals use when managing disagreement within their relationship. Click on the icons below to view examples of each conflict style:  

Consider these four conflict resolution styles outlined above and discuss the following: 

  • Do you both identify with one (or more) of these styles?  If so, which one(s)?  If not, how would you describe your conflict resolution styles? 
  • How do your conflict resolution styles impact your ability to solve a problem?  How do they impact your relationship? 
  • Are there times when you shift between conflict resolution styles?  Are there times when you use different approaches? 

The next skill building exercise focuses on making a plan to work toward more productive conflict resolution. Keep in mind your individual conflict resolution style(s) when doing the exercise.

Conflict Considerations and planning ahead
reflecting on repair attempts

Below is a questionnaire that provides examples of ways to repair if a conflict gets off track. You may find that some of the statements result in answers of “it depends”, which can be a good opportunity to reflect on your relationship and unique circumstances. Increasing awareness and having conversations about the strategies each of you use (or want to try) when resolving conflict can be helpful in developing healthy and productive approaches.  

Questionnaire created by The Gottman Institute https://www.gottman.com/blog/weekend-homework-assignment-repair-attempts-2/ . Used with permission.


DOWNLOAD: Repair Attempts Questionnaire 

After you have completed the questionnaire, discuss the following: 

  • What was your experience completing this questionnaire together?  What did you learn (about yourself, about each other, and about how you engage)? 
  • What are your strengths in this area? 
  • Are there other repair attempts that you have found helpful in your relationship that are not included here?  
  • Is there anything you would like to improve upon?  
  • Is there one thing in particular that you would like to focus on as a starting point? 


Need Something More?

Check out our self-directed Spouse or Significant Other Wellbeing Course.

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References for this page (click to expand)

Benson, K. (2022). Repair is the secret weapon of emotionally connected couples. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/repair-secret-weapon-emotionally-connected-couples/  

1Gottman, J. M. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work. Harmony.   

2Gottman, J. M., Driver, J., & Tabares, A. (2015). Repair during marital conflict in newlyweds: How couples move from attack–defend to collaboration. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 26(2), 85-108. https://doi.org/10.1080/08975353.2015.1038962 

3Kurdek‚ L. A. (1994). Conflict resolution styles in gay‚ lesbian‚ heterosexual nonparent‚ and heterosexual parent couples. Journal of Marriage and Family‚ 56(3)‚ 705-722. https://doi.org/10.2307/352880

Kurdek, L. A. (1995). Predicting change in marital satisfaction from husbands’ and wives’ conflict resolution styles. Journal of Marriage and Family, 57(1), 153-164. https://doi.org/10.2307/353824

The Gottman Institute. (2022). Homework assignment: Repair attempts. https://www.gottman.com/blog/weekend-homework-assignment-repair-attempts-2/