Is it bad we never fight? Well, here’s my unsatisfying therapist answer, it depends.
It depends on a couple of things. First and foremost, do you or your partner avoid conflict because it’s uncomfortable? If so, then that could be bad for your relationship in the long run. Being able to talk about conflict in a constructive way is not something that many of us are taught growing up.
Am I conflict avoidant?
If you hate conflict, you may be conflict avoidant.
Here’s an example of what conflict avoidance can look like. Picture this. You arrive at a restaurant and the host sits you at a table near the bathroom. You know you don’t want to sit there, but you won’t ask to be moved to a new table. After enduring dinner sitting at a table you hate, you wind up feeling irritated and pissed off. You leave and you’re upset but you’re not sure why.
Why do people avoid conflict?
There are lots of reasons people avoid conflict. It’s uncomfortable for one thing. Some people are afraid of anger. Others had poor examples of conflict in their homes growing up. Some fall into the people pleasing category and are so concerned with taking care of others that they don’t know about their own needs and wants.
What’s wrong with avoiding conflict?
In a romantic relationship, by avoiding conflict you prevent your partner from really getting to know your wants and needs. This can create distance over time, and that can lead to boredom.
Emotions don’t just go away. As much as we’d like to be able to control our feelings, it’s not that simple. If you avoid feeling frustrated or angry, those feelings will usually come up in other places.
I don’t fight with my partner, but I’m a real asshole on the road
Road rage or aggressive driving can be an indicator that you might want to take a look at how you feel about conflict. Aggressive driving can look like tailgating, speeding to catch a light, using your horn excessively or switching lanes to weave through traffic.
If you hold your feelings inside, they will surface in other places. If not road rage, maybe you get irrationally angry in other areas of your life.
Besides being unpleasant, road rage is dangerous! But for some of us, it’s easier to scream at a stranger in the car than bring up our differences with our romantic partners.
What are the benefits of having conflict in your relationship?
Conflict can be a place of growth and renewal in your relationship. It doesn’t have to devolve into a screaming match every time. In fact, if talking about difference in your relationship brings up bad behavior, it can be very helpful to seek support from a couples therapist to help you work through that.
By sharing more of yourself with your partner, they will know more about you. By playing it safe and avoiding difficult conversations, you’re creating distance in your partnership. If you’re unsure how to have a difficult conversation with your partner, check out this post.
Do I need more conflict in my relationship?
Before you decide whether you need more conflict in your life, let me describe a typical scenario of how conflict avoidance can cause problems in a relationship.
Here’s an example. You and your partner are very kind to one another. In public, you’d never bicker or disagree. But maybe your relationship has started to feel more distant lately. You’re not having sex nearly as much as you once did. You go out to dinner and it’s hard to know what to talk about. There are things you wouldn’t dream of bringing up with your partner for fear of rocking the boat. Sound familiar?
Conflict can be uncomfortable, yes, but differences also bring life into a relationship. By talking about your inner most wants, needs and dreams, you’re really showing up in an intimate and vulnerable way. And that’s exciting!
How I increase my comfort level with conflict?
In short, it’s an inside job. You first have to spend some time exploring what makes conflict uncomfortable for you. That will give you some ideas on how best to move forward bringing more of it into your life.
If things get explosive when you talk about differences, find support from an expert. Do you avoid conflict for fear of walking on eggshells or how your partner will respond? Then find a couples therapist. If your having trouble with the breaks in your car and you didn’t know how to fix them, you’d find a mechanic. Do yourself the same favor with your relationship.
Be vulnerable. Once you know that your relationship is safe, you have to be vulnerable. It’s the only way. Take a risk. Share something deeply personal with your partner and show up in a real way.
Set up a time each week to talk about difficult things. Set up a time each week that you can have a few minutes to talk about difficult things. And then use the time to talk about difficult things. The only way to get better at this is to practice. You will not wake up one day and magically be more comfortable with conflict.
Be kind with yourself and your partner. Change is hard. By talking about conflict more, you’re going to rock the boat. It will get uncomfortable for a time. But if you don’t, you’re missing out on the potential to have a more meaningful and connected relationship.