The ability to resolve conflict can make or break a relationship. Ongoing avoidance of conflict in a relationship may well be the primary predictor of divorce, according to a number of studies.
Why is this? Because chronic conflict avoidance is experienced in a marriage as lack of interest. Eventually, each person begins to feel disconnected from the relationship.
Research indicates that women who avoid marital fights have an increased risk of serious (even life threatening) medical problems. The reason for this is due to the stress that is associated with conflict avoidance.
The the message for couples is: By all means do engage in conflict with your partner. If you find that you can’t resolve issues on tour own, they you may want to consider couples therapy.
Every time you and your partner successfully deal with conflict it offers an opportunity for more intimacy and understanding. Every time conflict Is avoided, it can lead to more distance and lack of communication. The key is how you deal with the conflict.
Conflict Can Bring You Closer
Although conflict is unavoidable, it can also bring amazing benefits to a relationship. On the surface, conflict is not pretty. For some, it feels scary and treacherous with plenty of tension and anger. Other couples experience conflict more like a cold wasteland filled with avoidance and withdrawal. Either way, most couples experience conflict as frustrating and painful, something they want to avoid. However, conflict is loaded with potential treasures as well.
Most people view conflict in a negative light. Married people tend to think that arguments and angry interactions with their spouse are not just stressful but unhealthy. Additionally, many couples see conflict as a sign that their relationship is in trouble. This belief is understandable yet unfortunate since conflict is an inevitable part of marriage that will be managed in a healthy way.
Obviously, destructive conflict is not healthy. On the flip side, constructive conflict followed by successful resolution is one of the best things for solid couple growth and cohesiveness.
Constructive Couples Conflict
The following are some suggestions for constructive conflict management and resolution:
- Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements
- Avoid making wide generalizations such as ‘you never’ and ‘I always’
- Make every attempt to listen to your partner’s feelings
- Avoid jumping to conclusions and making assumptions
- Do not interrupt (no matter how excited you get!)
- Avoid the use of derogatory names, profanity, and insults
- During the conflict, use respectful communication with your partner at all times.
- If you feel like you are escalating, ask for a time-out and use some relaxation tools.
- When arguing, stay focused on the topic and resist the temptation to deflect with other issues and past grievances.
- Instead of focusing on your partner’s behavior (you never do the dishes) concentrate on how you feel.
- When responding, try not to be defensive
- Do not walk away from the discussion without being clear that you need a time-out and will be available to resume the conversation in the near future.
Following these guidelines will uncover feelings and issues that will stand in your way of having a successful relationship. If your conflict resolution and arguing do not improve after concentrated effort, you may want to try some couples counseling to get more assistance.