The Absolutely Essential Nature of Conflict in Romantic Relationships
By: Gregory E. Koch, Psy.D. | October 20, 2023
Many of us believe that “good relationships” don’t have conflict. Contrary to this commonly held belief, conflict is absolutely essential in romantic relationships! Conflict in a relationship doesn’t imply failure or dysfunction, but rather signifies the depth and authenticity of the connection. In this article, I explain the important role that conflict serves in romantic relationships, and how it can help bring us closer to our partners.
If experiencing conflict in your relationships is difficult for you, you’re not alone. We don’t often learn what healthy conflict looks like, and often develop conflict styles from observing others. Our family dynamics, cultural influences, and past experiences shape how we approach and handle conflicts in our relationships. With support and guidance from a San Diego psychologist, you will learn Why You Should Have Hard Conversations…And How to Start Them.
Conflict is absolutely essential because it provides an opportunity for partners to better understand each other. It allows us to express our needs, desires, and concerns openly. Through conflict, we gain insight into each other’s perspectives, values, and emotions, and foster a more profound connection and deeper empathy.
Embracing conflict as an opportunity to grow, and can lead to more fulfilling, deep, and long-lasting relationships.
Perhaps you’ve avoided conflict in your relationship in the past. To avoid conflict seems easier in the short term, but it leads to detrimental consequences in the long run. When we avoid conflict, resentment builds, and results in explosive “blow ups” that cause even greater distress. Ironically, these negative experiences in relationships lead to further avoidance of conflict.
Unresolved conflicts erode connection within relationships and destroy trust and intimacy over time. By acknowledging and addressing conflicts constructively, couples can prevent these adverse outcomes and maintain a healthier dynamic.
When we learn how to resolve conflicts when they are minor and solvable, we can build and maintain healthy romantic relationships. When we approach disputes with mutual respect, empathy, and a genuine desire to understand one another, conflict can strengthen the bond between partners.
Strategies to Invite Healthy Conflict into Your Relationship
1. Communicate Effectively
You can learn How to Effectively Communicate with Your Partner by being open and honest with your partner. Be an active listener, express emotions respectfully, and use non-defensive communication with the use of “I” statements. These strategies can contribute to a more productive dialogue.
2. Listen and Collaborate
Focus on mutually acceptable solutions instead of trying to win arguments. This approach requires a willingness to listen and understand each other’s needs while allowing room to find common ground.
Your couples therapist can help you learn how to increase your cognitive flexibility, and build empathy for a more fulfilling romantic relationship.
3. Seek Professional Help
Couples therapy provides a safe space to learn and practice effective conflict resolution techniques. A therapist with specialized training for couples at Therapy Changes can guide you and your partner to develop healthier communication strategies and address deeper underlying issues.
Approaches like Imago Relationship Therapy provides a structured approach to resolve conflict while creating deeper understanding and a more profound connection with your partner.
I tell couples, “Conflict is growth trying to happen.” It is an essential component of any romantic relationship. When you recognize the significance of conflict and learn how to navigate conflict amicably, you and your partner can cultivate a deeper understanding of each other, foster emotional intimacy, and build stronger connections.
When you embrace the power of healthy conflict, you can unlock the true growth potential of your romantic relationship.
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