What comes to mind when you hear the word “conflict?”  Do you see a picture of someone you know?  Do you relive a situation that you observed early in life? 

Maybe the idea of conflict brings up an unpleasant bodily sensation.  Your stomach may drop or your muscles may tense.  You may feel a strong urge to run or escape.

Conflict has a bad reputation.  It often evokes fear and/or discomfort.  However, our Atlanta couples therapists know that healthy conflict is actually an effective way to communicate.  

According to our Atlanta couples therapist Healthy Conflict Can Help You Express Needs

Think about the last time you had an argument.  What were the circumstances?  Why did the conflict begin?  What were you trying to get the other person to understand?

Arguments often begin because someone has a need that isn’t being met.  Discussions are productive when:

  1. We know what our needs are
  2. We can clearly and assertively tell the other what our needs are
  3. We use “I” statements to avoid accusatory speech

Having unmet needs can leave us feeling lonely and unimportant. Expressing this won’t be comfortable for you or your partner.  However, it can leave your partner with a clearer understanding of how to best love you.

Healthy Conflict Sets Boundaries

In addition to expressing needs, conflict can identify where we need boundaries.  When we are upset with someone, it’s because we feel like we were wronged.  Sometimes we don’t know we need a boundary until we feel violated in some way. 

The anger response that we have when boundaries are crossed communicates that we a) need to have a boundary, or b) need to enforce a boundary. 

An example of setting boundaries through healthy conflict could look something like this:

When work calls dare answered during our dinner date, I feel unimportant and unloved.  Going forward, can you do me a favor and give me your full attention and commit to no phone calls on our dates (boundary).

Healthy Conflict Increases Intimacy

No, I’m not talking about physical intimacy.  When we engage in healthy conflict, we are choosing to let the other person see our hurt, our vulnerabilities, and our dreams.  Conflict done right invites the other to come closer and know us more fully and deeply.

Healthy conflict is something that doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  It takes work to identify our needs and boundaries and learn how to communicate those productively – especially in the heat of the moment. If you find yourself avoiding conflict or engaging in unhealthy conflict, reach out to one of our Atlanta couples therapists today.