My husband and I were together for about 2.5 years before we were married. During that time we had A LOT of disagreements, near break-ups, and heart-to-heart conversations. I summed up the most important things that I learned from our experiences here because I know that they way conflict is handled in a relationship can either make it stronger with each disagreement, or slowly crush the beauty and love from it until nothing is left but scars and bitterness. So if you have been with that special person for a while and you know that you want to pursue the next step in the near future, THIS IS FOR YOU :-).
1. Be patient. People don't change overnight. That thing that he/she does that drives you CRAZY...probably stems from underlying issues from childhood, the way they were raised...etc., so don't expect for them to go POOF, and change immediately. Lifelong habits and ways of thinking take time to change, so be patient. The same way you want him/her to be patient with you when you mess up, is the same courtesy you should extend to them. Being in a relationship with another person will entail lots of growth and change, which take time. Don't give them an ultimatum and say they have to stop being so blunt by the end of the month, or else you'll break up with them. It doesn't work that way. Change takes time. What's important is whether or not they've made the commitment to change and work at it.
2. Don't play the break-up/make-up game. The reason for this is pretty simple. If you get used to bailing out on each other before you get married, what's to stop you from doing the same thing later on down the line when you are married? Then the pressures of life together--debt, raising children, juggling careers and schedules--will press down on your relationship much more. If you haven't built the habit of working out your problems in a healthy way, standing together, what makes you think your marriage will last? I don't know about you, but my marriage isn't just going to be a chapter in my life, it's the rest of the book. So if your goal is for your marriage to be "till death do us part," take that into consideration when you decide on how to deal with problems during your dating/engagement period. Remember, the same habits that you have as a couple before marriage will carry over into your life as husband and wife.
3. Don’t let your emotions decide your words. If it's hard for you to sort out your feelings on the spot, take some time, write a letter or an email to him/her. You'd be surprised to discover how differently your boyfriend/girlfriend receives what you have to say when you take time to explain exactly what is is you're feeling, and why you feel that way. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect and figure out the underlying issues behind your actions. This is one of, if not THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of conflict in a relationship. Conflict allows us to see the differences between our mentality and that of our significant other. Examining where those differences stem from, whether from a past trauma, childhood experience, or broken relationship, is one of the key factors in healing and moving forward so that your relationship is stronger as a result. So conflict definitely has an important role in relationships.
4. Be willing to humble yourself. It's never easy, but don't let your pride become a stumbling block that handicaps your relationship. Don't be afraid or ashamed to be the first one to say "I'm sorry," or "I was wrong," even if you feel that the other person's offense was worse than yours. Blaming him/her and justifying yourself won't ever bring reconciliation. Yes, even if you feel that you were right, go and apologize. I promise you, you won't regret it. When you humble yourself, it encourages him/her to do the same, and when you make that a habit in your relationship you'll see that the defensive walls that come up when you're in an argument come down so much more easily. You'll be able to achieve a greater amount of intimacy because you've made it a habit to show compassion and make yourselves vulnerable to one another. That's the stuff of great relationships!
Honestly, these points apply to all relationships, so even if you are single, it's good to start implementing these principles into your friendships even now. Your future relationship will be all the more stronger because of it!