Couples: Manage Differences Effectively for a Better Relationship

March 12, 2021, 1:23 pm | Anthony Santiago, David Brown

Young couple calmly having a serious conversation by Daniel Ernst/, Iowa – It’s not the absence of conflict and anger that makes a relationship better – it’s how couples manage the conflict and anger they experience. That is the premise of Tame, the seventh in a series of eight virtual meetings to help couples elevate their relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Danielle Day and Dawn Dunnegan, both human sciences specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, will lead the virtual meeting Wednesday, March 17, from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. During this session, they will review some tools couples can immediately use to improve their relationship.

The information presented will be based on ELEVATE, a relationship education curriculum developed by the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network.


“It is common for couples in any relationship to have conflict and get angry at each other. Couples may also experience varying levels of intensity when feeling angry with each other,” Day said.

“As couples manage their differences, it may help them to know that differences are normal in any relationship,” Dunnegan said. “They can accept each other’s uniqueness, be willing to empathize with their partner’s point of view and focus on the positive aspects of their relationship.”

Research has shown that on average healthy and unhealthy couples disagree about the same number of things. The difference is not in their number of disagreements but how those disagreements are handled.

“The good news is there are many things that couples can do to minimize the stress and increase their abilities to manage their conflict effectively,” Day said.

Research suggests that couples who manage their conflicts poorly tend to be less happy in their relationship and are more likely to separate or divorce.

“If we do not learn to control our anger, it can control us,” Dunnegan said.

During COVID-19 the added uncertainties and stress will undoubtedly create potential conflict situations for many couples. In this lesson, Day and Dunnegan will help couples learn ways to manage their anger in an effective way. They will also help couples learn effective conflict management skills.

Join Day and Dunnegan this Wednesday, March 17 at 12:15 p.m. To register, select the session listed in the Upcoming Events section at

Information about access to a unique Zoom room will be emailed to registered participants prior to each program.

Other resources

Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website,, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or, email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

211 is a free, comprehensive information and referral line linking Iowa residents to health and human service programs, community services, disaster services and governmental programs. This service is collaborating with the Iowa Department of Public Health to provide confidential assistance, stress counseling, education and referral services related to COVID-19 concerns.

For more information contact Anthony Santiago at 515-294-7042 or (cell) 515-291-0452, or David Brown at 515-294-0860 or (cell) 515-298-1505.

Photo credit: Daniel Ernst/

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