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Why You Shouldn't Avoid Conflict in a Relationship

Why Avoiding Conflict Is a Very Bad Sign For a Relationship (Not a Sign of Strength)

There's a stigma surrounding arguing in romantic relationships, but disagreement can actually be healthy. Randi Gunther at YourTango explains why you should stop avoiding arguments and consider conflict a strength.

Never having a disagreement is a bad sign.

When you picture an ideal relationship, what does it look like?

Would you see eye-to-eye on everything and never differ in your opinions? Would you never feel angry with your partner or feel let down? And would your mate always anticipate what you need, so you never had to ask?

If this is your standard, what happens when you inevitably hit a bump in the road with your partner? How do you deal with arguing in relationships?

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Most relationships start out with that "ideal picture." The euphoria of falling in love makes us idealize our partners, and it compels our best behavior — thus, feeding their idealized perceptions of us. But then when the inevitable snag happens (and it always happens), we find ourselves deeply disappointed.

When the "bubble bursts" in early love, it's usually because the partners began their relationship with a false idea of what love is like. If you enter a relationship thinking everything will always come up roses, then any upset feels catastrophic.

This creates all sorts of problematic behavior. You try to prevent the upset at all costs. You try hard not to do or say anything that could potentially turn off your new partner. You agree with everything he says. You go along with plans you're not that crazy about. And you certainly don't call your partner out on something you dislike.

You want him to think you're the most easy-going person on the planet — that he has found gold. But you can really only keep this up for so long. Sooner or later, something will be just too big to ignore. You'll have a fight, and you'll think it's the end of the world.

You wonder if you chose the wrong person, or if you've done something terribly wrong. You start judging your partner and yourself. You think, "Here I go again, I can never get this love thing right!"

But look what happens if you approach relationships knowing, from the outset, that conflict is inevitable.

You enter a relationship without all these fears that you're going to ruin it. Instead of being anxious and edgy, you're comfortable and at ease. You are yourself.

And when a disagreement happens, you think, "Ah, here we are. We're human. Let's see how we can resolve this together." You even welcome the conflict.

That's because you know that the best way to strengthen a relationship is to challenge it. When conflict happens, you build your relationship skills together and emerge all the more connected.

Couples who avoid conflict are dooming their relationship because:

  • They're living in an illusion and setting themselves up for disillusion.
  • They're not being themselves, thus preventing true intimacy.
  • Most importantly, they're denying themselves the opportunity to learn critical conflict-resolution skills together.

In my 40 years of counseling singles and couples, I'm convinced that most relationships fail because the partners within them are afraid of conflict.

Living in fear of conflict leads to a relationship lacking in intimacy. True intimacy can only happen when partners bravely take risks — when they are brave by being themselves.

Yes, vulnerably exposing what you really want, need, and think could mean that your partner may not agree. But by being yourself authentically — and creating a safe space for your partner to do the same — you create space for the deeper intimacy you're after.

Dr. Randi's free advice e-newsletter, Heroic Love, shows you how to avoid the common pitfalls that keep people from finding and keeping romantic love. Based on over 100,000 face-to-face hours counseling singles and couples over her 40-year career, you'll learn how to zero in on the right partner, avoid the dreaded "honeymoon is over" phenomenon, and make sure your relationship never gets boring.

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