Conflict can feel scary and unpredictable. When we sense it coming on, we can often feel transported back to another time when conflict didn’t go so well, and that can make us shut down and withdraw. Our Atlanta couples therapists are familiar with this dynamic.
Conflict in relationships can hit on our famous fight-or-flight system because it can feel like so much is at stake. Maybe you don’t want to “rock the boat” and upset your partner. If that’s the case, that’s understandable. However, that leads to you not getting your needs met.
When done right, conflict can actually be a good and healthy thing. This Atlanta couples therapist wants to share some insight that I hope can be helpful.
Withdrawal As Protection
Withdrawing from conflict is a way that you are trying to protect yourself.
All of us as humans are pain-averse. Naturally, we do not like anything that feels threatening to our safety. And I’m not just speaking of physical safety: Sometimes we experience conflict as threatening to our relationships, belonging, and sense of self.
Maybe conflict feels overwhelming and like “one more thing” you can’t or don’t want to pour energy into.
But when we withdraw from conflict, we deny ourselves the opportunity to be authentic about our needs and desires. Withdrawing from conflict also denies our partner’s needs and desires.
Benefits of Conflict
Conflict can actually be good. It allows you to discuss when your needs aren’t being met. It brings problems to the surface and deals with them now so that they aren’t festering and turning into resentment.
Healthy conflict also allows you to be heard and communicate that something needs to change in your relationship.
Further, when we have conflict, we have a chance to get to know one another more deeply. Conflict often has a deeper meaning than what is presented on the surface. When we can open up about that, there is an opportunity to be more fully known.
What is it about conflict that makes you want to withdraw? Is it not wanting to deal with the stress of the situation? Do you feel afraid?
Think about the origin of the avoidance. Where did you learn that conflict was “bad?” How did you experience conflict in your family? What beliefs have you developed about conflict over time?
An Atlanta couples therapist can help you and your partner explore your conflict beliefs and patterns in an emotionally safe and productive way. Having healthy conflict can be a path to greater intimacy and connection. Call to find out more or schedule an appointment today.
*Not all conflict can be worked on in couples therapy. If you are in an abusive or violent situation and need help, you can call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1.800.799.7233. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.