They say opposites attract — and that may be true when it comes to your conflict style. How do you approach conflict? Do you avoid your partner like the plague when things aren't going well, or do you pick a fight wherever and whenever you can? Opposing styles are an especially common source of trouble for couples since, like many aspects of marriage, there is no "right" way to be. Like sex itself, good conflict resolution is a matter of compatibility.
Opposing styles of conflict often come down to two approaches: the avoider and the confronter. Avoiders dislike conflict, and feel uncomfortable discussing negative aspects of their relationship or their life. They often grew up in households that didn't directly discuss problems. Avoiders don't necessarily deny what's wrong — they just don't feel the need to talk it out. This might be fine, if it weren't for all the avoiders who wind up in relationships with confronters! To a confronter, not getting underlying issues out in the open is frustrating, even intolerable. Confronters tend to come from families who expressed what they were feeling — sometimes too much — and not getting everything out on the table feels dishonest and uncomfortable.
You likely know which one you are, and which one your partner is. If you are indeed conflict opposites, you probably already know the problems that come with that territory. The confronter in the relationship is prone to outbursts, while the avoider is seen as distant or unavailable. Ultimately, it's important to find the middle ground between the two extremes. The confronter must learn to pick and choose her battles. The avoider must learn that avoiding problems only makes the inevitable conflict worse. No matter what side you're on, work on meeting your partner in the middle — your relationship, and the constructiveness of your fights, will greatly improve.
Beyond conflict styles, there’s another very important thing to consider when arguing with your partner. It’s a factor that can make or break the relationship over time, and that is: what you hope to get out of it. Do you want to communicate and resolve the issue with the intent of strengthening your bond, or do you just want to be right? Whether you are an avoider or a confronter, it’s important to make sure that you fight to love, not to win.
When you fight to win, you are ferocious. You are out to prove that you are right and that your partner is wrong — dead wrong — and so you go to extremes to win the argument. You might name-call, bring up drama from the past, or you might go the opposite route and pout, cry, and give him the silent treatment until he begs you to forgive him.
However, if you fight to love, you fight fair. You remember that you love your partner and that his happiness is important to you. You keep your focus on the health and stability of your relationship, and instead of trying to prove how right you are, you work hard to communicate, to honestly hear each other out, and to eventually reach a peaceful state. Clearly, fighting to love will lead to a much calmer, happier home, and it will also allow both of you to express your feelings in a safe environment.
Therefore, when it comes to fighting, it’s important to not only be in tune to your own conflict style and personal needs, but also to his. It’s entirely possible that you both might need different things for the argument to reach a conclusion in a way that will leave you both standing on emotionally stable ground. If this is the case, it might require the big “C” word – a word that is crucial in every major relationship at some point or another: Not “Conflict,” but “Compromise.”
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