Conflict in relationships can be constructive. Here is how to do it well

Healthy conflict increases the odds of a relationship lasting longer, since grievances are aired and resolved, instead of swept under the rug or spitefully addressed. (Photo: Envato Elements)
Conflict in any relationship is inevitable. And although it may seem that completely avoiding all conflict is a good idea, its absence may actually be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Conflict avoidance often means that issues and anger are being suppressed or unacknowledged, which can lead to tension accumulating and eventually exploding, damaging or destroying the entire relationship. اضافة اعلان

As is the case with most things in life, balance is key. Learning to argue in a healthy manner is constructive, and may significantly improve your relationships. This is particularly the case for romantic relationships, however, healthy conflict resolution techniques can also be applied to friendships and professional and family relationships.

When fighting is good
Although fighting and arguing can be taxing, they can bring many benefits. First and foremost, conflict is often a sign that both parties care about the relationship. Sometimes, it is easier to simply avoid problems and drama, but when you are willing to experience the uncomfortable strain of arguing, it shows that you value communication and wish to see the relationship succeed. This can ultimately strengthen a relationship, as it allows for discussions about disappointments and hopes for the future.

Additionally, healthy conflict increases the odds of a relationship lasting longer, since grievances are aired and resolved, instead of swept under the rug or spitefully addressed. Lastly, in the process of arguing, you will learn new things about your counterpart, including likes, dislikes, and even deep aspects of their character and personality, such as their communication style. Note, however, that these benefits only emerge when arguments are conducted in a healthy way.

When fighting is bad
When arguments are conducted in a poor manner, negative and sometimes severe consequences can result. First, unhealthy fighting patterns can take a toll on physical health. A 2008 study conducted on adults over the course of two years found that those who were exposed to prolonged bouts of conflict reported poorer general health and greater functional limitations, while also suffering from a higher number of health conditions. It is believed that stress is largely to blame for the effects that conflict has on physical health. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, which can make people more susceptible to infection. Other conditions associated with chronic stress include headaches, back and neck pain, acne, digestive issues, hair loss, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, insomnia, and obesity.

Constant fighting and poor conflict resolution probably have the greatest impact on mental health. Generally speaking, a good and healthy relationship should improve many aspects of mental health through enhancing social well-being and building strong connections that act as a buffer against disorders such as depression. However, if a relationship is unhealthy, it can have the opposite effect. Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that hostile fighting and arguing can lead to anxiety, depression, and even eating disorders.

The negative mental health impact of unhealthy conflict patterns is especially far-reaching for children, who are highly susceptible to their environments. When a child is constantly exposed to hostility between two parents, it can have long-lasting effects on their mental health. One 2016 study found that children who are exposed to hostility experience greater negative emotions, have lingering tension, and may find it difficult to relate to others. The study also showed that children’s sense of security can be damaged by tension, leading them to feel emotionally insecure. This study ultimately concluded that, over time, children exposed to unhealthy conflict tend to develop depression, anxiety, and stress.

Destructive conflict patterns
There are many wrong ways to fight, and avoiding them is of the utmost importance. Unproductive and potentially harmful methods of arguing can range from mild to severe. One fighting method that can be harmful is minimizing your partner’s issues. No matter how mundane it is, your partner, when opening a conflict, is coming to you with a problem. More often than not, they just want to be heard and validated. When you minimize their issues, you send the message that you do not respect them or that they do not matter.

Another common harmful conflict pattern is blame-shifting, or constantly redirecting blame to the other person. Shifting blame back and forth or deflecting will not resolve the issue at hand. Blame-shifting also includes giving the silent treatment, bring up past issues, or projecting. Although blame-shifting often seems to end an argument, the underlying issue is still there, often leading to feelings of resentment. Instead, only bring up your partner’s role in a problem after you have resolved your contribution.

Two other common negative conflict strategies are gaslighting and ridiculing. Gaslighting is when an individual outright denies an accusation, despite the presence of clear evidence showing them to be in the wrong. It is a way of lying and manipulating that ultimately leaves their partner questioning reality. Ridiculing can include insults, put-downs, and mockery, which serve the purpose of belittling others and making them feel inferior. All of these fighting methods can be considered emotional abuse, and make a relationship toxic. Similarly, when fighting devolves into physical violence, it may be time to leave your partner. If you or someone you know is experience domestic or partner violence, the UNHCR has a hotline for support (0795546383). You can also access support through the mobile application Amaali.

How to fight well
The foundation of healthy arguing is built on respect. It is completely normal to be angry with your partner from time to time. However, whenever you approach your partner to discuss a problem in the relationship, you should act with respect to facilitate constructive conversation.

Choose your words carefully. It is easy to let your emotions get the better of you during an argument, but speaking clearly and concisely can help improve communication, which ultimately leads to resolution.

It is also important to consider your partner’s point of view. Instead of holding steadfast to your perspective, try to grasp your partner’s side to understand why they feel the way they do. In order to accomplish this, you will need to listen with an open mind. While listening, asking questions can also help you ensure that your interpretation is correct.

In order to be able to listen in the first place, you should provide an opportunity for the other to speak. Even if you are the one who has an issue, allowing your partner to speak allows for more effective communication. You should not interrupt unless it is to ask for clarification in a polite manner.

Lastly, when you approach an issue, be sure to frame the problem correctly. Instead of complaining, demanding, or speaking down to your partner, speak directly and respectfully, making constructive suggestions and giving gentle feedback. This can help reduce tension while maintaining respect, to help preserve your relationship and building it strong for the long run.

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