What Causes Conflict In A Relationship And How To Resolve It?

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Healthy relationships do not evolve overnight but require continuous work and commitment. They grow through compassion, compromise, forgiveness, effort, and commitment from both the partners. Every relationship is unique and goes through its ups and downs, disagreements, and conflicts.

However, the way couples manage these conflicts can indicate how their relationship will flourish. Some couples may let go of trivial conflicts or handle matters maturely, while others may not know how to resolve such matters.

Read this MomJunction post to know about the common causes of relationship conflicts, ways to resolve such situations amicably, and more.

What Is A Relationship Conflict?

Relationship conflict is any type of argument, disagreement, scuffle, or heated debate between two people in a relationship. For instance, disagreement over your holiday plans or real estate investment can result in conflicts.

Conflicts in a relationship have a few common characteristics that can indicate negative patterns, resulting in pointless or no outcomes. Some of these common characteristics include:

  1. Displaying dramatic or exaggerated behavior
  2. Not taking steps to resolve the existing conflict
  3. Forgetting the outcomes of a conflict when it ends
  4. Using vulnerability or confidential information to bring shame or disgrace to the partner
  5. Not showing apprehensions in causing humiliation or embarrassment to the partner
  6. Displaying defensive behavior, or interrupting and invalidating their partner

Is Conflict Normal In A Relationship?

Some conflicts are inevitable in a relationship. However, it doesn’t mean that those can’t be solved. There are ways to bring about constructive and positive outcomes.

In healthy relationships, partners may argue or criticize each other but are aware when their behavior is hurtful or inappropriate. They may feel remorse, talk to their partner, and make efforts to overcome such situations. When couples resolve their conflicts respectfully and mutually, they take steps to strengthen their relationship further.

However, when conflicts become frequent, it can indicate underlying emotional issues or abuse. If unresolved, conflicts can make partners feel misunderstood, vulnerable, frustrated, or even depressed.

Patterns Of Relationship Conflicts

Let us now discuss the types or patterns of relationship conflicts.

  1. Dramatic and rapid escalation: In this type of conflict, one partner gets aggressive quickly with little or no provocation, leading to loud or dramatic expressions or language. The other quiet partner is on the receiving end of criticism. This situation ends when the aggressive partner runs out of energy or isn’t able to get the other partner to respond and take the blame.
  1. Sarcastic jeers: One partner uses a barrage of sarcastic comments to provoke the other. When those jabs do not work, the person makes more targeted attacks to generate a reaction. The other partner, however, remains calm and impassive. This conflict usually ends when the sarcastic partner leaves, and the other one continues with their work as if nothing had happened.
  1. Stretching arguments: One partner keeps prolonging or pursuing the argument—picking every detail, demanding response, and pushing personal opinions. In this type of conflict, the other partner usually avoids arguments and is more of a harmony-seeker. This situation usually ends when the harmony-seeker isn’t able to take it anymore and bursts with anger.
  1. Threats or intimidations: One partner makes threats to subdue the other one. These threats can be emotional or physical. They use such threats to make their partner feel powerless or incapacitated in the relationship. The partner on the receiving end eventually breaks out of the relationship or gives in to those threats.
  1. Steering away from responsibilities: When one partner is questioned or criticized, they react by putting the blame on the other partner or making them feel guilty. Such partners get too defensive of their actions and steer away from the actual argument. This conflict ends when the flippant partner makes the other partner take full responsibility for the issue.
  1. Loud and noisy attacks: This type of conflict may begin as a disagreement, but soon escalate to loud and noisy attacks. Here, both partners may use the power of yelling to sideline the other partner. With their body language and continuous shouting, the situation may seem like a battleground. The conflict ends when both the partners are either exhausted or leave the room.
  1. Seeking answers: One partner makes persistent efforts to seek answers, reasons, or truth that they believe are not being shared with them. The other partner may avoid or dodge such conversations and would want to keep things private. Things get messy when such conflicts turn into suspicion or breaking of trust issues.
  1. Dramatic arguments: This type of conflict arises when one partner is overly dramatic in expressing their views or disagreements. The other partner may dismiss or mock the situation. This conflict may end when the partner releases emotions or makes a dramatic exit, and the other one undermines or invalidates the issues.
  1. Good guy/bad guy: This type of conflict usually occurs in caring, committed couples. When one partner begins to question or criticize, the other partner takes a backseat. Although they may feel that it is not justified, they hold back to keep the peace. After the disagreement, the dominating partner feels guilty, and the other partner emerges a winner.

What Causes Relationship Conflicts?

Relationship conflicts can be caused due to various reasons. Let us discuss a few common ones.

  • Lack of intimacy: When either of the partners feels that they are not comfortable sharing their emotions or feelings with their partner, conflicts may arise due to misunderstandings. Lack of emotional intimacy can make it difficult for the couple to have meaningful conversations.
  • Dominance: Conflicts may also arise when one partner is overbearing and causes the other partner to feel undermined or insignificant. It may become difficult to manage the power dynamics in the relationship, leading to disagreements and resentment.
  • Family’s involvement: Although your near and dear ones offer a well-rounded support system, their over-involvement, sometimes, may give rise to conflicts between partners. The difference of opinions, unwarranted advice, or involvement in personal matters may further escalate the conflict between couples.
  • Lack of communication: Lack of open and honest communication between partners can leave issues unresolved. This can lead to arguments or disagreements.
  • Criticism: Constructive criticism should be welcomed by both partners to improve their relationship. However, when this turns into finger-pointing or putting the other partner down, it may lead to relationship conflicts.
  • Level of commitment: When there is a difference in the level of commitment and efforts to make the relationship work, one partner may feel that the entire responsibility lies with them. Conflicts may arise due to differing expectations.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Every relationship goes through its ups and downs. However, some couples may have unrealistic expectations about a perfect, happy relationship. This may also give rise to disagreements and conflicts.
  • Selfish behavior: Conflicts may arise when one partner is not considerate of the other person’s needs, choices, or aspirations. This selfishness may make it difficult to develop a healthy relationship.

How To Resolve Conflict In A Relationship?

Disagreements and conflicts are bound to happen, but what matters is how you deal with them. Here are a few effective tips to help you resolve relationship conflicts.

  1. Open and honest communication: It is important to have open and honest communication with your partner. This will help you discuss both problems and positive things. Try to create an environment where you can talk comfortably about your feelings, aspirations, or issues.
  1. Keep calm: It is easy to lose temper during heated arguments. However, try to keep your calm and steer your arguments with sensibility and empathy. Avoid using sarcastic comments, taking jibes at each other, or putting each other down. However, if you feel that you always have to hold back to prevent your partner from getting explosive or angry, then it might be an abusive relationship.
  1. Sort out issues: Do not brush every other argument or issue under the rug. Get to the root cause of it, and make an effort to resolve your problems amicably. Be understanding and value your partner’s perspective. Avoid putting across your point forcefully.
  1. Reach a common ground: Find a compromise or a common ground that benefits you both. Remember, relationships work on mutual understanding. You need to prioritize each other’s needs.
  1. Choose your battles: Do not argue with your partner on every petty issue — movie to watch, things to buy, or a place to go – may not be worth arguing. Choose your battles wisely. You need to decide the things that you can let go of and those that you may need to discuss together.
  1. Look at the bigger picture: In a healthy relationship, couples need to share values, morals, goals, and aspirations. They should be able to see the bigger picture together. However, if you need to let go of your beliefs or dreams to make the relationship work, then you need to take a step back and think.

Are Conflicts Healthy Or Unhealthy In A Relationship?

The frequency of conflicts, causes of conflicts, and the way you deal with them can determine whether they are healthy or unhealthy.

Conflicts in a relationship can be healthy when you try to resolve issues mutually and respectfully. This can further strengthen the bond and understanding between you two.

Frequent or constant arguments, heated disagreements, or fights that quickly go out of control may be signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Interestingly, a relationship without conflicts is not always healthy. You and your partner are different persons. Therefore, conflicts will arise. However, the way you manage and overcome those issues is what makes the difference. Both your partner and you need to reach a middle ground and look at the bigger picture to make the relationship work.

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