The Value of Conflict In Relationships

The value of conflicts in relationships

If there’s one guarantee in any relationship, it’s that sooner or later you and your partner are going to hurt each other. Perhaps this will not happen too often, and of course that’s to be hoped.  But inevitably both of you are going to say something insensitive, ignore a request, or in some way create distress.

So what do you do when that happens?

Sulk, strike back, become passive-aggressive?  And if it’s any of these, do you find it moves the conversation forward, creating a space to work through the issue – or does your reaction merely serve to deepen, or gloss over, the injury?

Did your partner mean to hurt you?

The first thing to consider whether your partner actually meant to hurt you.  There’s a big difference between an unintentional slight and a deliberate attempt to get under your skin. Before striking back, take a moment to sort out what was behind the attack or omission. In healthy relationships, premeditated attacks are rare.

It is an opportunity to improve your relationship

Even if no harm was intended, however, it doesn’t mean that damage hasn’t been done.  But here’s the good news: these slights, injuries, disappointments, and missteps are not only opportunities for personal growth, but when handled with sensitivity, can improve the strength of your relationship and deepen the understanding between you and your partner.

By way of contrast, imagine a couple who spend their lives avoiding each other’s triggers, raw spots, or old wounds. How inactive and lifeless would such a relationship be, with only a thin veneer of pleasantness to maintain it, and with a mountain of unresolved issues underneath.

Strong relationships can tackle differences

So if you never fought, never rubbed each other the wrong way, you’d be spending your lives tiptoeing around so as not to risk triggering each other.  Not only would that be a recipe for a dead in the water relationship, it would provide zero opportunities to learn anything about your partner’s raw spots, so that you could deal with them in an open and sympathetic way. And by exposing those raw spots, you each individually have an opportunity to better understand and process them on your own.

Marcie Scranton
Psychotherapist, LMFT
Marcie Scranton is an LMFT who specializes in relationship conflicts, major life transitions, depression, anxiety, and issues arising from recovery. In addition, she is trained in Trauma-Focused CBT, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Her approach is results-oriented and incorporates modalities based on Attachment, Existentialist Theory, Object Relations, and Family Systems.

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