6 Conflict-Resolution Strategies for Intimate Relationships

Are you stuck in a disagreement with your partner?

Posted Dec 03, 2020

Conflict negotiation
Source: Unsplash

You and your partner have been arguing exhaustively about your next vacation. You're pushing for the Appalachians, your partner for Hawaii. You've been practicing the relationship strategies recommended in my previous blog post ("7 Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationship") yet you've reached a dead end. It appears unreconcilable. It's time to try one or more of the following:

1. Interests not positions. (As suggested by the Harvard Negotiation Project.) You've each stated your position, the Appalachians or Hawaii. But what is your—and your partner's—interest behind your positions? What is your interest in visiting your favorite vacation spot? What motivates it?  Identify each of your interests in holding your position.

Suppose that behind your wanting to vacation in the Appalachians is your desire to hike and your partner's aim with Hawaii to swim. 

Now each position becomes more flexible. Find an area featuring both hiking and swimming. Here's one option: Lake Tahoe, CA, one of many U.S. vacation spots offering both. 

2. Take turns. Compromise by alternating preferences. This vacation you and your partner go swimming in Hawaii, next summer it's hiking in the Appalachians.

3. Quid pro quo (this for that). This is also called "behavioral exchange." What is something he's wanted you to do that you've resisted? Perhaps visiting his mother with him. Agree to visit your mother-in-law if in return he agrees to hike with you this summer. 

4. Do your own thing. You may both agree it's not necessary to vacation together. You can spend it in the Appalachians while your partner swims in Hawaii. Perhaps a break from each other may prove welcome. 

5. View it as an experiment. You may resist your partner's idea, thinking it will be etched in stone forever. Instead, agree that it's an experiment to be re-evaluated afterward. You may discover it was quite enjoyable or, perhaps, worse than you thought and a non-negotiable in the future. 

6. Flip a coin. As a last resort, let chance decide for you. Flip a coin, draw straws, roll a die. Most likely it's significantly better than butting heads for days or weeks.


Fisher, R., Ury, W.L., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to Yes.  Westminster, London: Penguin Books.