Conflict is Only Half of the Story
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
How do you feel about conflict in your relationships? I invite you to notice what happens in your body when you think about conflict. Do you tense up? Feel like running? Shut down? Look around for help? Notice if you think at all about what happens as a result of or after the conflict.
Culturally, many of us are quick to demonize conflict; to extrapolate its existence to what it means about the strength or vitality of our relationships.
But conflict is only half of the story.
Being a therapist has been a huge gift in helping me overcome some of my own discomfort around conflict. Each time I've had a conflict (disagreement, miscommunication, or mis-attunement) with a client it has deepened our relationship and the level of our work together. I'm not kidding and I'm not exaggerating.
In therapy, we refer to this dynamic as rupture & repair and we expect it.
Conflict happens because we are each individual human beings with our own special blend of needs, feelings, insecurities, hopes, and dreams.
Conflict can remind us, "Oh yeah, you're different than me." And that that difference is not a threat, but an opportunity in our relationships. Because where else are we supposed to grow, if not within our relationships?
Conflict, when done well, helps us challenge our limited beliefs and embodiments about what is helpful or important or even true. In relationship/couples therapy work, I often reiterate that both/all partners safety needs can be honored within the relationship. Sometimes, it requires a bit of patience and creativity, but it's usually possible.
When carried out with mutual respect and curiosity, conflict can help us expand our emotional capacity so that we can find emotional safety in more "places," so to speak. Because, that's what we want, right? Safety, security, belonging.
What happens when safety can be centered in conflict as a value and a goal? When repair is the goal, rather than being right? Tell me, how does that feel in your body?
Curious to learn more? Join me on Friday, December 10, 2021 from 12-2pm ET for a workshop on balancing the needs for safety & connection during relational conflict.
Do you and your partner want to feel more capable of handling conflict? I work with couples navigating issues related to identity and belonging. I specialize in supporting interracial couples, as well as couples in which one partner has recently come out as Queer or Trans. Learn more about couples therapy.