“Conflict is the beginning of consciousness.” – M. Esther Harding
In our closest, most intimate relationship…let’s be honest…we have some high expectations.
We want to have a partner that can carry the weight of our burdens like a best friend, but can also ignite a passionate fire within us like a great lover.
We want closeness, connection and understanding; we desperately want to be understood.
We want someone who has common interests and values to us so that we can enjoy doing things together, while also craving the individuality of being our own person.
And we’ve bought into the romantic ideal that if we had this person in our lives, there certainly would never be a need for conflict. What on earth would we have to fight about?
We would see the world the same way.
We would both want the same things.
We would have the same parenting styles and would both put the toilet paper roll on the correct way (which is clearly over, not under).
We would both want sex at the same time, in the same way and with the same frequency.
And because we understand and accept one another so deeply, when there was something where we didn’t see eye to eye, we would be able to express our differences in a calm, rational and productive way.
The best relationships are not without conflict. Conflict is inevitable in relationships.
This is especially true in our closest, most intimate relationships – because that’s where the stakes are high and the issues are important to us.
Oftentimes, when there’s conflict in a relationship, we assume the relationship is broken because it doesn’t align with our idea of what a great relationship is supposed to look like and feel like.
We don’t feel understood or safe, connected or desired.
And we conclude that the relationship is bad / not working / should come to an end (where we can go back out and search for this magical ideal person we’re convinced exists).
I think conflict can be healthy sometimes because it can alert you to what you really care about and what your partner cares deeply about. It can tell you what’s important to each of you (unless of course you’re arguing about the toilet paper roll…in which case, just stop it).
When there’s conflict, it gives the two of you the opportunity to understand one another better. Being able to talk through things where we don’t see eye-to-eye in a way that isn’t hurtful to our partners takes some practice.
And it starts from the assumption that there must be some good reason why they’re seeing this differently than me. When we seek to understand, rather than control or convince, we are able to be in a relationship that has its share of conflict, but the conflict doesn’t suffocate the love that also is present.
Is conflict killing your marriage? Let’s talk.