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Conflict happens. One of the great myths is that people never disagree, or even discuss difficult and uncomfortable issues, in a “good” relationship. But a relationship doesn’t just bring together two people: It also joins your different habits, personalities, belief systems, and quirks. This can make for a pretty wild party.

If you enter a long-term relationship believing that a lack of conflict is a hallmark for its success, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’re also missing out on the chance for greater intimacy.

Conflict can bring you closer if you choose to approach it as a way to know your partner better. If you genuinely seek understanding of your partner’s position, you can create deeper connection through any disagreement.

It may seem odd to have a date focused on conflict, but the best time to explore how you’re going to manage it is when you are not in the middle of a heated argument. This date gives you a chance to discuss conflict with a cool head.

Preparation: Spend some time reflecting on how you’ve managed conflict so far in your relationships, and how you would like to manage it going forward.

Location: Go to a place where you can speak privately, ideally a location that feels peaceful to both of you. This could be a favorite park, or a beach, or even your own backyard. An afternoon date may be better than an evening, so that no one lacks energy.

You might also choose to have this date while on a walk around the neighborhood; that way if you do get stuck, you’re still moving, and in the same direction.

Open-ended questions to ask your partner:

  1. How was conflict handled in your family growing up?
  2. How do you feel about anger? How was it expressed in your family?
  3. How can I best support you when you’re feeling angry?
  4. How do you like to make up after a disagreement?
  5. What do you now understand about me that you didn’t before this conversation?

This article originally appeared in “5 Essential Conversations for Any Couple” in the December 2020 issue of Experience Life.

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