We usually think that couples break up when they have too much conflict. But being ‘conflict-avoidant’ could be just as damaging.
If you’re not fighting with your partner you might be in trouble.
Most people think that not fighting is a good thing. After all, who actually wants to have conflict with their loved one? It’s hard, scary and confusing, and can bring up past relationships where fighting got out of hand.
But the issue with always keeping the peace and not rocking the boat is that you can end up feeling miles apart from your partner. Why? Because you’re not talking about the important stuff. Because you can’t be fully yourself if you are hiding or ignoring what is really important to you. Because it is in working through tension that great intimacy is created.
We usually think that couples break up when they have too much conflict. But being “conflict-avoidant” could be just as damaging, and it’s not as obvious of a problem. So, how do you know if you and your relationship may be suffering from conflict-avoidance?
1. Not feeling close: Ask yourself—from 1 to 10, how close do you feel? If you or your partner are at a 7 or below, you may want to talk about why.
2.You don’t bring up certain topics: Perhaps you’ve really been wanting to spice up your sex life, but you’re afraid that merely broaching the subject will cause huge distance. Or you may have a consistent feeling of walking on eggshells.
3. Staying hidden: You keep certain things from your partner. You don’t trouble them with “petty details” about trouble at work because you don’t want to bother them.
4. Swallowing issues. When you even think about discussing something difficult with your partner, you feel a knot in your stomach. You decide you’ll wait until “the right time.”
So how do you get out of a cycle of constantly avoiding conflict and thus feeling distant from your partner? A good first step is to ask yourself, “What do I need in order to really feel good in my relationship?” “What do I want more of or less of?” “What am I not sharing with my partner that is actually important for me?”
Think about one of the following topics and see if any of these feel too taboo to talk about—and what effect not discussing it may have on your relationship:
- Sex and intimacy
- The future
Yes, it’s scary to talk about the hard stuff. But it’s even scarier to think you could go days, months, or even years sweeping things under the rug and not getting to be your true, honest, open self with your partner. That seems worth the risk. That seems like a goal worth fighting for.
If you need help talking about the hard stuff with your partner, our couples counselors in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, and Palo Alto can offer you the tools and support you need. We also offer sliding scale options for people with need.
Founder of The Couples Center, Gal has a warm and practical approach that recognizes and honors the best in every person. Gal’s relationship with his wife is the source of inspiration for his commitment to helping couples create thriving relationships. Going through their relationship struggles made him realize how a committed relationship is the most important vehicle for one’s personal growth. Gal has a lifelong dedication to learning and growth and is trained in many different.