Conflict avoidance in relationships is a common problem that many gay couples face. When conflicts arise, some people tend to avoid them or sweep them under the rug, hoping they will simply go away on their own. Usually, this only leads to bigger problems down the line, as the underlying issues remain unaddressed and fester.
What is conflict avoidance?
Conflict avoidance is a way of relating that strives to steer clear of any tension that can arise relationally. This can look like holding back opinions or avoiding subjects that are known pain points. You pretend everything is fine on the surface, but sometimes there can be a volcano that’s just about to erupt.
Benefits of conflict
If you’re someone who generally sweeps things under the rug, this next concept may be tough to swallow.
Conflict can be beneficial in your relationship! It’s natural and inevitable. It’s through conflict that we learn more about our partners and ourselves. And you don’t have to get nasty with each other, either. Unless that’s what turns you on. No judgements.
An example of healthy conflict
Let’s take the imaginary couple, Gary and Robbie. They’ve been together for years and they avoid talking about sex directly. One day Gary builds up the courage to tell Robbie that he wishes they had more oral sex. Instead of causing a fight, this sparks an intimate and beautiful series of conversations that improves their sex life in the long run. They both feel more comfortable taking risks in the future and a positive reinforcing cycle begins.
Downsides of being conflict averse
Here’s a dirty little secret, if you don’t make space for conflict it will come up anyway. Usually in a non-constructive way which negatively reinforces taking risks and bringing things up preventatively. If you hold things inside, like whack a mole, they come up in other places. Resentment and dissatisfaction can build. Cue the volcano.
Stop Avoiding Conflict in Your Relationship
Try this easy visualization. Close your eyes. (read it first, then try it) Notice your breath. Breath in and out. In and out. Now think for a moment about something that you’ve been struggling to share with your partner. Maybe it’s something about your sex life or financial relationship. Maybe it’s an interaction you had recently that has been sitting with you the wrong way. What’s getting in the way of you circling back and bringing this topic up with your partner? How do you imagine they will react when you share it?
How did that go for you? Chances are you learned a little something about yourself and your relationship. Maybe it was slightly uncomfortable. Good! That means you’re in the growth zone. If you feel so inclined, consider sharing what you discovered with your partner sometime this week. Make sure they’re in a good place to hear you out and use “I” statements and all that jazz.
Remember conflict avoidance in relationships can be detrimental to the health and strength of your partnership. To avoid conflict, you must face it head-on and work through it together. By communicating openly and honestly, practicing active listening, staying calm and composed, avoiding blame and finger-pointing, and seeking professional help if necessary, you can overcome conflict and build a strong, healthy relationship.
If you and your partner are feeling stuck in a conflict-free dead zone, feel free to reach out and learn more about how we can work together. Sometimes couples therapy or a relationship retreat can be just the ticket to making big progress- fast!
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