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Happy Halloween from your friends at HRC! If you’re like me, you enjoy the “trick” part of the holiday as much as the “treat.” But that’s only for Halloween; one tricky thing that used to terrify me is conflict, especially in my romantic relationships.
I believed that conflict was a sign of a bad or unhappy relationship, and that couples who were happy and open with each other didn’t need to argue. As I’ve gotten older and have experienced my own marriage, I have learned that the opposite is actually true. Conflict is natural even in a happy, healthy relationship, and we don’t need to be afraid of it. Instead, we need to learn how to make conflict work for our relationship rather than against it.
Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t run away from conflict in your relationship:
1. Learning how to manage conflict in a healthy way builds trust.
Healthy relationships are made up of two whole and complete individuals, and there are going to be times when the viewpoints of those individuals are in conflict. If a couple doesn’t ever disagree, it is likely that someone is hiding their true thoughts and feelings. When you disagree with your partner, it takes vulnerability and trust to share your differing opinion.
Sharing those opinions gives partners an opportunity to respond to each other with open ears, hearts, and minds, and to affirm that they are a safe space for their partner to communicate the things that are important to them. Each time conflict and disagreement are approached in this way, it builds a culture of trust in the relationship and paves the way for deeper vulnerability and love.
2. Healthy conflict is a natural product of equal partnership.
Equal partnership means that the voices and efforts of both partners contribute equally to the success of a relationship. When each partner is contributing their thoughts and perspectives, it is likely to result in conflict—and that is normal and healthy! The opinions of both partners are essential in building a relationship that is equally fulfilling, meaningful, and beneficial for each individual involved. As partners learn how to manage conflict in a healthy way, it allows them to be more equally invested in each other and in the success of the relationship.
3. Conflict can help you improve your relationship.
More often than not, individuals who enter into a relationship come from very different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. These different life views are likely to conflict with one another at least every once in a while. But each difference of opinion that a couple experiences can act as an opportunity to put two heads together and problem solve.
When differences are addressed in a healthy way, couples can come together, listen to one another, discuss viewpoints and options, and come up with solutions that they might not have otherwise discovered. The next time you and your partner are in conflict, try seeing it as an opportunity to come together and make your relationship a better, safer place for both of you.
Bonus: Experiencing conflict provides opportunities to practice repairing your relationship.
We all make mistakes, and there are going to be times in our relationship when we don’t handle conflict in a healthy way. When this happens, it gives us the opportunity to apologize, seek and give forgiveness, and practice repairing our relationship. Intentional relationship repairs can lead to stronger relationships and deeper love and trust over time.
Conflict can feel scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Practicing healthy conflict management in your relationship will help you and your partner grow closer together, have deeper trust in one another, and overcome the obstacles that may come your way.
Want to learn how to manage conflict in a healthy way in your relationship? Check out Healthy Relationships California, and our R3 Academy for Couples! You can learn more about this free program at our Project site, https://r3academy.org/couples.