Conflict Resolution in Intimate Relationships – Term Paper

Often, relationships begin because of the verbal and non-verbal communication that occurs between two people who end up being intimate. An intimate relationship means the interpersonal affiliation that involves an emotional and physical connection. Emotional connection entails the development of strong feelings between the parties in a relationship. The physical connection is the most significant factor in intimate relationships and is expressed through friendship, romance, sexual activity, and platonic love. While human interactions necessitate relationships, the sustenance of close relationships seems a challenge. For instance, incidences of divorce, separation, and breakups seem dominant in the contemporary society. The trend raises concerns about the erosion of communication as a critical factor in authoring and sustaining relationships. This paper examines the issue of conflicts in relationships with a focus on communication. The first part scrutinizes the role of communication in bringing conflicts in intimate relationships while the second section inspects its role in resolving the battles.

Conflict Avoidance in Intimate Relationships

Morey et al. (2013) make an important observation, which is the deployment of technology tools to enhance romantic relationships and ties among the youths. The research revealed that technology tools were encouraging communication; thereby, strengthening relationships. Communication devices such as phones result in frequent communication, for instance, phone calls, emailing, text messaging, and social networking. However, a contradictory matter that features in their findings is that particular communication approaches necessitate attachment avoidance; as such, preventing intimacy (Morey et al., 2013). While technology and abundance in the use of communication tools can cause growth from friendship into intimate relationships, they also set back relationships.

Fox, Osborn, & Warber (2014) noted that the criteria and modes of interaction using social networking sites, for instance, Facebook, can both build and maintain intimate relationships or cause conflict and dissolution. Using the Baxter’s (2011) refinement of relational dialectics theory, the authors affirmed that social network sites create a situation where it is easier to communicate and monitor other people. Intimate partners experience a higher level of emotional attachment, which can degenerate into a terrible fight when one experiences a flawed communication approach, which affects his or her actions towards the other party. Issues such as reading and ignoring a message on WhatsApp, failing to comment or commenting negatively on a Facebook post, or unfriending a partner can cause discomfort and a subsequent conflict. Many people in intimate relationships have fallen out because of the social networks, what their partners posted or commented on different sites. For example, a person may have a comment on a friend’s post that appears flirty. Moreover, other conflicts may begin at home and escalate into enmity because partners resort to the social media as a platform for expressing their discontentment. In other words, social media does not accord people the privacy required to re-think and resolve issues (Fox, Osborn, & Warber, 2014).

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Communication in Relationships – Common Barriers 

Many researchers have shown interest in examining the cultural differences that cause communication barriers in relationships. Cross-cultural factors affect almost all relationships, the reason being that people come from different families to build different units. The assumption that most people hold is that natural adjustment happens as relationships grow. However, the assumption does not hold in all relationships as the cultural barriers necessitate fundamental differences in some units with partners failing to understand the way others approach issues and vice versa. Cultures mold people in peculiar ways. One of them is the loyalty that they feel towards their traditions and ways of life that limit the ability to comprehend people from a different culture (Counseling Directory, 2015).

According to Counseling Directory (2016), many people may assume that the feelings they have towards one another dominate the differences in belief. The situation is quite the opposite most times as the differences in beliefs dictate the way people interact and act; as such, cultural differences end up dominating the individual feelings that attract people. A significant amount of what people do, believe, think, say, and feel is influenced by the cultures they come from. Examples of cultural barriers witnessed by couples include friction as a result of variations in beliefs, loss of identity, differences in the interpretation of events, dissimilarities in parenting tactics, and struggles to acclimatize to individual and family values.

Importance of Communication in Relationships

Research in the realms of social psychology reveals the essence of social support networks in addressing the challenges the people face in relationships (Erber & Erber, 2016; Rowland et al., 2009). Problems that partners encounter in relationships, which sometimes cause physical or severe emotional harm, necessitate physical isolation. Physical or virtual social networks can be the difference between the decision to end an intimate relationship or the determination of a person to reach another party and discuss problems that cause friction (Rowland et al., 2009).

According to Rowland et al. (2009), physical intimacy is an important aspect in relationships as it heightens feelings. However, certain forces beyond the couples’ control can complicate communication; as such, causing tides in relationships. For instance, breast cancer, which is a chronic ailment could necessitate mastectomy. Such a medical remedy results in the change of an anatomy of an individual, which as has been mentioned, is a significant factor in intimate relationships. The example elaborates the externalities in relationships that might require a re-engineering through communication (Rowland et al., 2009). Social support networks provide a better environment for education and counseling in such situations. The spouses could get stressed, something that causes a non-violent conflict in their relationship, which may smolder into a complex problem (Rosenberg & Chopra, 2015). Nonetheless, social networks have proven helpful in re-inventing dialogue on such issues, where couples embrace the situation by trying the available solutions (Keesing, Rosenwax & McNamara, 2016).

Cross Culture Counseling

As noted earlier, cross-cultural communication is a challenge as far as understanding and unity in relationships are concerned. Communication is not only about talking and listening, but also includes the process of understanding and acclimatizing to the behaviors, actions, and lifestyles of other people (Robinson, 2012). The observation implies that communication is a continuous process because couples keep learning new things as they bond. According to Counseling Directory (2016), the best way of helping couples to come out of their restrictive identities that are caused by culture is by enforcing cross-cultural counseling. The aim of counseling is to clarify the barriers to communication so that individuals can see their spouses with clarity. Counseling offers a forum for dialogue and reflection. The reason is that counselors develop a neutral environment where people listen to the stories of their spouses objectively. Such a setting makes it possible for couples to develop a new sense of communication and a new level of understanding. The obstacles to effective communication are identified, and suggestions for future engagement made (Counseling Directory, 2016).

Different therapeutic models have been developed to help optimize communication and promote the quality of life in relationships. Farbod, Ghamari & Majd (2014) investigated the impacts of communication skills on women’s communicative abilities and the influence on intimacy and life in their relationships. The research revealed that poor communication necessitated most of the problems that couples encounter in their relationships. The application of different therapeutic models in counseling has been found to be instrumental in improving the communication abilities of individuals; thereby, limiting conflicts in intimate relationships (Farbod, Ghamari & Majd, 2014).

In summary, many people take communication as a simple process that involves talking and listening. In other words, people fail to understand that communication is a complex and ongoing process, as it goes beyond the verbal aspects. Communication entails the sending a message via a word of mouth, but most importantly the ability of people to make meaning of the actions, motivations, and behaviors of others. Intimate relationships are sustained by the emotional connection established between couples. Relationships thrive on communication, where partners continually pass messages and obtain responses. However, the passage of messages may be for the good or bad depending on the prevailing relational situation between people in intimate relationships. Things such as culture and social networks can spur positive communication, just in the same way they can cause misunderstandings and aggravate tension. There is a need that people understand the issues that make communication difficult and learn techniques that enhance positive communication while suppressing misconceptions because of failure to realize an objective understanding of others.


Counseling Directory. (2016). Cross cultural relationships. Retrieved from

Erber, R., & Erber, M. W. (2016). Intimate relationships: Issues, theories, and research. London: Psychology Press.

Farbod, E., Ghamari, M., & Majd, M. A. (2014). Investigating the effect of communication skills training for married women on couples’ intimacy and quality of life. SAGE Open, 4(2), 1-7.

Fox, J., Osborn, J. L., & Warber, K. M. (2014). Relational dialectics and social networking sites: The role of Facebook in romantic relationship escalation, maintenance, conflict, and dissolution. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 527-534.

Keesing, S., Rosenwax, L., & McNamara, B. (2016). A dyadic approach to understanding the impact of breast cancer on relationships between partners during early survivorship. BMC Women’s Health, 16(1), 57-71.

Morey, J. N., Gentzler, A. L., Creasy, B., Oberhauser, A. M., ; Westerman, D. (2013). Young adults; use of communication technology within their romantic relationships and associations with attachment style. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1771-1778.

Robinson, J. (2012). Communication miracles for couples: Easy and effective tools to create more love and less conflict. Berkeley, Calif: Conari.

Rosenberg, M., ; Chopra, D. (2015). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships. Encinitas: PuddleDancer Press.

Rowland, J. H., Meyerowitz, B. E., Crespi, C. M., Leedham, B., Desmond, K., Belin, T. R., ; Ganz, P. A. (2009). Addressing intimacy and partner communication after breast cancer: a randomized controlled group intervention. Breast cancer research and treatment, 118(1), 99-111.