Is your conflict style damaging your relationship?

Hands up if there is a sulker in your relationship! Do you or your partner tend to clam up, withdraw or display the cold shoulder when the other makes a demand?

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If you answered ‘Yes’, then you might want to change your patterns as recent research* suggests that when one partner stonewalls or shuts down emotionally, it is a serious sign of distress in the relationship

Breaking this pattern once it has become ingrained is hard but not impossible.

Here are a few things you can try:

Be honest. Own up if you are a habitual nagger or stonewaller and think about why this might be. Often naggers feel abandoned and stonewallers feel inadequate. If you are a nagger think about reducing the number of requests you make a day. If you are a stonewaller, practice voicing your thoughts and feelings more often.

Use “I” not “you”. Whenever you want to talk about what your partner has or hasn’t done – mention how it made you feel rather than using accusations or hurling insults. Avoid any statements that start with “you never…” or “you always…”

Put connection first. Disagreements are easier to sort out if you feel like you are on the same side. Look for ways to connect before tackling difficult conversations. Pay each other a compliment, have a hug, make love or do something fun. It can be easier to talk when you aren’t attacking or avoiding each other.

If conflict is an issue in your relationship – why not join my Life Lab’s course – 30 days to save your relationship?

You’ll find out how you can resolve conflict effectively without damaging your connection. You’ll also learn to identify your typical conflict style and discover ways that you can act and respond to change the dynamic between you and your partner.

*A Meta-Analytical Review of the Demand/Withdraw Pattern of Interaction and its Associations with Individual, Relational, and Communicative Outcomes. Paul Schrodt et al. Communication Monograhps. 2014.

Sarah Abell

How to live, love and lead authentically,

My passion for authentic relationships came out of my own failure to relate well in my early twenties and what I’ve been learning about true connection ever since. What do I do? Good question and one I always find a bit tricky to answer. In a nutshell I help people to live, love and lead authentically. You can find out more at I have written, coached and spoken on relationships and authentic living to thousands of people. I was the Agony Aunt for The Daily Telegraph and I'm the author of "Inside Out - How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life" (Hodder 2011). I have given two TEDx talks on authentic relationships and I write the Life Lab experiment on Love for Psychologies. I have been married to David for twelve years and we have one son, who is six. We live in Bristol.