s…and is a poor way of resolving differences

In a fight or argument, what is your fight style? Does one of you run from conflict, refuse to talk about a disagreement, withdraw, cry, shut down or emotionally disappear in the face of conflict? If so, you fit the description of “conflict avoidant.”

Regardless as to the content of what your fights are about, your style of fighting—and your intimate partner’s style—speaks volumes about the health of your relationship.

If you are conflict avoidant—or live with someone who is—your relationship is more likely to encounter smokescreens (what conflict?), blaming and finger-pointing, sarcastic comments and frozen anger. All in all, when conflicts get stuffed away, ignored or avoided, there will be less passion in your relationship, and a lot more distance.

It is true that fighting can damage a relationship, but avoiding conflict is frequently even more destructive. The person who withdraws from conflict or emotionally shuts down harms a relationship because they have cut off all possibility of working out disagreements. People who disconnect in a conflict bring considerably less to the table in terms of solving a problem, or even being able to discuss the problem effectively. They are reacting to a conflict as if their survival is at stake.

There is no way around the fact that if you act self-protective in a disagreement by becoming conflict avoidant, you will lose the feelings of love and closeness, and instead become fearful and closed. So far as an important problem is unresolved, it often functions as a small drop of poison to the relationship. Also, anger that is not expressed openly will still find a way to leak out indirectly, which will further poison the relationship.

If you or your intimate partner are in a relationship which has become conflict avoidant, here are some things you could do in order to make your relationship better:

  • Quit being so self-protective. It hurts the relationship and isolates you from those you care about. Quit acting as if the conflict is a survival issue unless it genuinely is.
  • Write the answers to the following questions on a sheet of paper: I resent…, I’m angry about…, I’m fed up with…, I’m annoyed about…, I can’t forgive you for…, I’m hurt by…, I’m suspicious of…, I feel sad when…, I’m disappointed because…, I’m afraid…, I wish…, If only…, I’m worried about…, What I really want is… These questions will give you an idea about what has been troubling you in the relationship.
  • Also write the answers to these questions: I appreciate…, I value…, I like…, I feel grateful for…, I forgive you for…, I love… . These questions will help you to feel closer. If you think it would be helpful, share these answers with your partner.
  • Look carefully at how your comes out indirectly, as withdrawal, criticism, sarcasm, rejection and the like.
  • Don’t attack your partner or deliver angry personal critiques. Instead, explain what you find distressing about his/her behavior. Start and end the conversation with what’s positive about the other person and the relationship.
  • Focus on the issue. Edit the hostility or the mean-spirited jab in order to concentrate on the main message. Often the emotional intensity is not meant to be personal, but instead is a signal of the issue’s importance.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” —Paul Tillich

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