Disagreements are an inevitable and normal part of any relationship. There is no such thing as a healthy relationship that doesn’t involve conflict. Even more interesting is the fact that conflict is necessary for the growth of any relationship. Knowing this means we should stop striving for relationships that are free of conflict. Here’s the thing: learning how to manage conflict can be a catalyst to an extraordinary relationship- one that embodies growth, empathy, understanding, respect, and belonging. But first, we must get over the fear of conflict.
Couples can disagree and address conflict with mutual respect. Not only is it possible, but it is also a sign of a healthy and thriving relationship. That being said, there is a point at which constant and repeated conflict can turn toxic and create animosity, so we need to learn how to manage conflict in a way that welcomes differences and honors individuals.
Conversely, a lack of conflict indicates your marriage is headed for problems. Lack of conflict shows apathy, typically a precursor to divorce. When a relationship gets to this point, the odds of saving it decreases significantly. And nearly all of the well-known relationship experts agree on this (from Michael Bathshaw to Dr. Terri). Rather than fearing conflict, we should be more fearful of the flame between partners dying out to the point of disinterestedness.
Your skin may crawl when you hear, “it’s normal to have arguments, and I get it. For many people, disagreements make them uneasy but hear me out. Not knowing how and when conflict is necessary or important makes it feel uneasy. I will go over five significant benefits of conflict that you must learn to succeed in your relationships.
Conflict allows us to practice communication skills
Your relationships need conflict to grow for a few reasons. First, conflict forces you to communicate. You can’t just avoid problems and hope they go away – you have to talk about them. This allows you to understand each other’s viewpoints and needs and find a compromise that works for both of you. Communication is easy when things are going well. It’s when things go array or in the heat of the moment that we actually put our skills to the test (and I say skills intentionally because it takes practice). The more we can practice our communication, the better we get at it. Good communication isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us, especially in conflict scenarios. So use your next dispute as an opportunity to grow in your relationship and as an individual. Practice active listening, vulnerability, and compassion towards others.
Conflict gives the opportunity to get curious and understand other viewpoints
I am naturally curious, and it is a great compliment when someone is curious about you and takes the time to understand you and your perspective. Without curiosity, we can’t have a true connection. Empathy requires that we understand life through a lens different than our own.
When disagreements arise, we often create drama and conflict by interpreting and assuming. By staying curious, we eliminate assumptions. We often allow our feelings and emotions to take the driver’s seat rather than staying objective. Only through objectivity can we understand how our partner views things. When we flip the narrative around conflict from “you vs. me” to “I want to understand you better,” we eliminate judgment and make room for empathy and compassion.
Conflict is a great place to understand someone else’s worldview and show respect for their perspectives. And speaking of respect-respect is more important than agreement.
Strengthens your ability to manage difficult emotions
Managing our emotions can be difficult, and it certainly takes practice. However, if we can use conflict to practice managing difficult emotions, we reap tremendous rewards personally. Take a deep breath before reacting to something, get clear on what’s going on inside your body & try to understand what you need instead of blaming others.
Builds trust & connection
Conflict can be a bonding experience. It sounds counterintuitive, but overcoming challenges together can bring you closer. It gives you a shared experience to laugh about (or cry about) later. Connection doesn’t come from a blissful utopia of conflict-free relationships. And relationships aren’t the place of dovish communication where you submit and agree to everything your partner wants and needs. Instead, connection is grown when we see and respect one another for our individuality. Disagreement often can be the breeding ground for greater connectedness because it builds trust that your partner sees you, and it is through being seen and respected that we feel safe & connected.
Allows you to learn & growth
Conflict forces you to grow and change. If you’re never challenged, you never have to stretch yourself. But in a relationship, you must adapt and change as your partner does. This growth can be difficult, but it’s ultimately worth it. No matter how much the idea of conflict might make your skin crawl, it is indisputable that conflict is an excellent learning opportunity. We learn through actively listening to opposing viewpoints and considering our partners’ feedback (which we discussed here is imperative to self-awareness). When there is conflict, and your partner addresses their disapproval with something you’ve done or how you handled a situation, the odds are that you’ll think through that opposing perspective when addressed with that problem again.
Big Takeaway about the importance of conflict
Don’t be afraid of conflict in your relationships – it’s actually a good thing! Next time you’re faced with conflict, flip your current narrative that it’s bad and use it for growth and connection instead.