Why Avoiding Conflict Is Bad for Your Marriage and what to do about it.
Let’s face it nobody really likes conflict but it’s a natural part of life that we all have to deal with.
The absence of conflict while appealing to some, is not necessarily a good indicator of a healthy marriage. In fact if you never argue in your marriage it can lead to bigger problems.
Continuously avoiding conflict, believing, “conflict is bad or something must be wrong with my relationship” you set yourself up for big problems down the road.
Perhaps you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do, saying yes when you really don’t want to, not speaking up for yourself, being upset about something and not bringing it up. When your partner asks you a question and you say “I’m fine” because you don’t want to “get into it”. You may think you’re avoiding a fight, but all this really leads to is you and your partner not being honest with each other in order to avoid the tension of conflict.
At the time it seems the easiest way to deal with the situation, it gets you off the hook in the moment. Sigh of relief, you dodge a bullet.
Unfortunately, the fact that steering clear of problems seems to work only reinforces the initial feeling that avoiding conflict is a good solution. Over time, avoiding fights ends up doing both of you a disservice as you develop habits of interacting that you’re hardly aware of. You may be so accustomed to being this way that you’ve forgotten what matters to you. Resentful compliance becomes a way of life. But under the surface there’s a slow simmer waiting to erupt.
The truth is, lots of couples and or partners avoid conflict in their relationship. It’s normal to do this from time to time, you pick your battles. Not all things need to be a matter of discussion. There may even be times when biting your tongue makes sense. But repeatedly silencing yourself is in no one’s best interest.
It’s true conflict can be uncomfortable especially if you’re someone that has been conditioned to be fearful of it. However, it is possible to learn to address conflict in your marriage in a healthy respectful way. It is possible to get comfortable with conflict and view it as an opportunity for growth.
What is it costing you to keep the peace?
On a small scale the avoidance of conflict looks something like, being agreeable to things your partner wants to do that you don’t want to. Sure, I’ll go see that movie with you. I don’t care what restaurant we go to.
On a larger scale are couples who show up in my office after one partner has, out of nowhere, announced they want a divorce and are ready to abruptly end the marriage after 15 years. The partner is stunned and can’t understand what happened. We never fought, I thought everything was fine. I didn’t realize you were unhappy.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon.
Avoiding conflict in your marriage, while it may seem the easiest way to handle a difficult situation at the time, ends up wreaking havoc in the long run.
When you don’t address conflict your relationship suffers. Accumulation of unaddressed issues can lead to:
- Built up anger and resentment
- Emotional distance and lack of intimacy
- Unresolved relationship problems
- Self-doubt, lack of confidence
- Missed opportunity for growth
- Lack of honesty
- Not getting what you want/need
Side stepping conflict in your marriage has the potential to cause significant emotional and relational consequences.
Conflict doesn’t have to be scary
Yes, dealing with conflict can be uncomfortable. But learning to tolerate tension and work through conflict is something that can be learned. Conflict and disagreement is necessary for the growth and health of any relationship. If you’re someone who grew up in a family that never dealt with conflict then it makes sense that you try to avoid it.
But when you learn to think of conflict as your friend instead of your enemy you open up new opportunities to know yourself better and to deepen the connection in your marriage.
The root cause of most conflict comes down to differences, which are a normal part of any relationship.
When you express your feelings/thoughts openly and honestly you reduce feelings of anxiety and tension, as if a weight is lifted, it is healthier not to express not suppress. Suppressing your feelings can have significant emotional and physical consequences.
Here’s nine ways to start handling conflict in your marriage head on:
- When you find yourself holding back ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” Usually it’s not nearly as bad as you imagine.
- Take small risks at first. This will help build your confidence.
- Take time if you need to decide what it is you want to express even if it’s after the fact.
- Change your belief that conflict is bad. Remind yourself it’s a normal part of relationships.
- Work on expressing your opinion when differences arise.
- Don’t mindread or assume.
- Address situations that you would normally say nothing to keep the peace.
- Be direct, use “I” statements.
- Avoid blaming your partner.
At Relationship Counseling of Walpole my clients work on facing their fear, becoming more and open in their communication and challenging themselves to talk about issues even when it’s uncomfortable.
Clients practice these skills both in session and out of the session. They track progress by keeping a notebook or journal to record the things that are working to make a difference in the relationship.
Together we work to uncover hidden beliefs that are driving their fear of conflict so clients can create new more helpful beliefs. Clients begin to realize through experience that conflict is an opportunity for growth.
Couples have noticed that after just a few sessions they are starting to speak up more and say what’s on their mind even if they think it may lead to an argument. They start to see that disagreements/arguments are an opportunity to work through difficulty and be strong on the other side.
When people tell you they never fight don’t be fooled into thinking they have the perfect marriage. The absence of conflict doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems in the relationship. It just means they aren’t being addressed.
To make sure that you and your partner aren’t burying conflict and creating dysfunctional patterns in your relationship call to schedule a session