Is conflict always bad?
No. Conflict is normal and can tell us when it’s time to make positive changes. Conflict in relationships can be great opportunities to grow closer together.
Will conflict end your relationship?
It shouldn’t. Conflicts in relationships should not be taboo, they are actually essential in order to strengthen your relationship. The best lesson I learned from Getting the Love You Want is that conflict is growth trying to happen.
I used to think that conflict in relationships = toxic relationship. I thought peak relationship goals were agreeing on everything and never fighting.
In my own relationship, I used to unhealthily avoid conflict by insincerely apologizing to “get it over with” or getting defensive so I wouldn’t have to confront my mistakes. This literally never solved anything. I just felt resentment.
There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle ways we unhealthily avoid conflict. Here are a few.
Ways We Unhealthily Avoid Conflict in Relationships:
- Ignoring your partner or leaving when they try to talk about a problem
- Getting defensive or playing the victim when your partner brings up a problem
- Making insincere apologies
- Hiding your true feelings from your partner
- Releasing bottled up emotions through sarcasm and passive aggressive comments
- Justifying your partner’s behavior to deny the problem: “That’s just how they are”
- Shaming your own feelings to deny the problem: “I shouldn’t feel bad about this”
With Sabe’s help and patience, I realized that our “fights” are some of the most important moments in our relationship.
3 Reasons Why Conflict is Important:
1- Willingness to engage in conflict resolution is a sign of love and commitment in a relationship.
Commitment in a relationship is caring more about improvement than your comfort. When we avoid conflict, we treat our relationship like it’s temporary.
For me and Sabe, the purest form of love we can show each other is to care about each other’s improvement and long-term happiness.
If there’s a problem, there’s a problem. When you confront it and work to resolve it, you show your partner that you are invested in growing together.
2- Conflict helps couples empathize, improve, and grow closer.
Conflict is growth trying to happen. You can’t hide your feelings forever, and you shouldn’t.
Learning to tolerate and engage in conflict resolution didn’t happen overnight for me. It took time to break down walls and push through insecurities, and I still have to be intentional about it.
3- We can love unconditionally without accepting unhealthy behavior unconditionally.
Some say that “acceptance” is love. But what does that really mean? Accepting and enabling unhealthy behaviors isn’t love. True love and commitment in a relationship is helping each other improve and grow.
5 Conflict Resolution Skills to Help You Communicate Better:
1– Invest More Time in Conflict Resolution
If you don’t talk about what’s wrong right now, you’re going to fight about it later. One of our fatal human flaws is believing that if we ignore something long enough, it will go away. But problems don’t just disappear.
It’s easier to wishfully think that one day your partner will apologize for something they said last week, but it’s not realistic. Your partner can’t read every thought and feeling you have.
It’s not easy to confront your partner, and it’s not easy to be confronted either. Conflict resolution can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, but Brené Brown taught me that “Joyful relationships happen when you are your most authentic, vulnerable self.”
Investing time, vulnerability, humility, and authenticity into conflict resolution will always pay off.
2- Learn the Difference Between Complaints and Criticism.
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work teaches us the big differences between complaints and criticism.
- Attacks a person’s character or personality
- Commonly manifests in “you always” and “you never” statements
- Assumes ill intent of others
- Focuses on a specific situation or behavior
- Considers the emotions and values behind it
- Often uses “I feel” statements
- Addresses a positive need or “wish”
You can be honest while maintaining a spirit of love and respect in your relationship by “complaining” instead of criticizing.
3- Create a Place and Time for Conflict Resolution
When I say, “don’t put off conflict”, I don’t mean “try to hash it out right before you leave for work”.
Schedule a time to talk about your issues, then commit to it. Respect your relationship by creating the time and privacy to work things out.
Until then, work on self-soothing and tolerating the conflict. It can feel uncomfortable to wait, but trying to “text-fight” while you’re at work is NOT a good idea.
If you experience fits of anxiety when you feel distance from your partner or feel your emotions are extremely dependent on whether your partner is responding to you or not, you might struggle with an anxious attachment style.
For advice of self-soothing, read 7 Steps to Deal with Anxiety in a Relationship.
4- Be Humble
Conflict resolution takes vulnerability. It’s hard to talk about problems and negative feelings. So when your partner is vulnerable with you, let your guard down too.
Instead of defending yourself, ask them questions and seek to understand. This will lead to a more productive, meaningful conversation.
If you get defensive quickly and often feel flooded with shame during conflict, you may be dealing with deeper insecurities. For help with overcoming insecurities, read How to Overcome Insecurities in a Relationship.
5- Bring Your Whole Self to the Conversation
Although conflicts should be solved as a team, you still need to do your part. Try to process your thoughts and feelings before engaging in conflict resolution.
It’s okay not to have everything figured out, but make sure you go into conflict resolution with your authentic, present self. Be ready to be vulnerable, respectful, honest, humble, and loving. Difficult conversations take your whole selves and total presence.
Conflict resolution is a lifelong, intentional practice. Just try your best and remember that you are both human!