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7 Ways to Resolve Conflict: Relational Life Therapy

Updated: Mar 22

"Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means." -Ronald Regan


"To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others use your heart". -Eleanor Roosevelt


Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of any relationship. How you approach conflict and resolve it can profoundly influence the health and sustainability of your relationship. Many of us were not taught conflict resolution skills either; at school or home. Some of us may have picked up some unhealthy methods of handling disputes. By incorporating the principles of Relational Life Therapy (RLT) developed by Terry Real, you and your partner can acquire effective strategies for navigating conflicts while strengthening your bond. At the core of Relational Life Therapy, Terry Real introduces the concept of "relational love," which underscores the importance of mutual respect, empathy, and collaboration.


Let's explore how we can apply these principles to resolve conflict and cultivate stronger fulfilling relationships.


  1. Understanding Relational Dynamics: In Relational Life Therapy, Terry Real emphasizes the importance of understanding the dynamics at play within relationships. This includes recognizing the roles of the "Functional Adult" and the "Adaptive Child." The Functional Adult represents your mature, responsible self capable of handling conflict constructively, while the Adaptive Child embodies your reactive, defensive tendencies. By becoming aware of these dynamics within yourself and your partner you can approach conflict with greater understanding and empathy.

  2. Embracing Relational Love: Relational love involves prioritizing the well-being of the relationship over individual desires or ego. It means approaching conflict with a genuine desire to understand and support your partner, even when you disagree. By fostering an environment of mutual respect, trust, and empathy, relational love lays the foundation for resolving conflict collaboratively.

  3. Active Listening and Validation: Central to RLT is the practice of active listening and validation. This involves genuinely listening to your partner without judgment, seeking to understand their perspectives, and validating their feelings, even if you don't agree. By demonstrating empathy and validation, you create a safe space for open, honest communication, essential for resolving conflict effectively.

  4. Seeking Win/Win Solutions: RLT encourages couples to seek win/win solutions to conflict, where both partner's needs and concerns are addressed. Instead of approaching conflict as a competition or power struggle, you collaborate to find solutions that benefit the relationship as a whole. This mindset shift from individualistic to relational problem-solving fosters greater harmony and mutual satisfaction.

  5. Cultivating Emotional Awareness and Regulation: Another key aspect of RLT is developing emotional awareness and regulation skills. When conflict arise, you can practice pausing to identify and express your emotions calmly and assertively. By managing your emotions effectively, you prevent conflict from escalating and create space for constructive dialogue and problem-solving.

  6. Honouring Relational Commitments: RLT emphasizes the importance of honouring relational commitments and agreements. This means holding yourself and your partner accountable for your actions & words and striving to create a relationship built on trust, integrity, and authenticity. By upholding your commitments, you strengthen the foundation of your relationship and foster greater resilience in times of conflict.

  7. Seeking Professional Support when Needed: RLT acknowledges that some conflicts may require professional intervention. If couples find themselves stuck in recurring patterns of conflict or unable to resolve issues on their own. Seeking the guidance of a trained therapist can provide valuable support and insight.

In conclusion, resolving conflict through Relational Life Therapy involves embracing the principles of relational love, active listening, validation, seeking win/win solutions, emotional awareness, and honouring relational commitments. By prioritizing connection, empathy, and collaboration, you can navigate conflict more effectively and cultivate more fulfilling relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. Remember, conflict is not a sign of failure but an opportunity for growth and deeper intimacy when approached with compassion and intention.



Adaptive Child / Functional Adult – Terry Real


Adaptive Child


-Black & White, Perfectionist, Harsh, Hard, Rigid, Relentless, Certain, Tight in body


Functional Adult


-Sense of Gray, Realistic, Warm, Subtle, Flexible, Forgiving, Humble, Relaxed in the body

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