Have you ever held your thoughts back because you were afraid to cause conflict? Do you think you may be conflict-avoidant? Why do you think you do this? Are you afraid of getting rejected, hurt, or discomfort? It is called conflict avoidance. Conflict avoidance is the act of withdrawing from conflict or avoiding conflict altogether. Some say this may be a harmless behavior but it is not. It causes more damage than you think. Let’s talk more about it.
Conflict avoidance manifests; you may not even know you have participated. We all have at some point, but this can be a personality trait for some which leads to people who have had difficult many relationships. Let’s go over a few ways it is manifested. Many people do this by withdrawing from a conflict and refusing to discuss it, which seems to be the most common. Sometimes they try to change the topic and make peace without addressing their issue. This is actually passive-aggressiveness which is a conversation for another day. Wink-wink.
How It affects relationships
The biggest effects being conflict-avoidant has on relationships is resentment and contempt. Resentment and contempt lead to a lack of communication in the relationship. Lack of communication then leads to distance. More distance and length of distance can lead to the ending of the relationship. Most people do not want this and they do not understand how to avoid it. There are a couple of theories psychologists like to use behind being conflict avoidant.
Remember, I am no therapist or counselor so I am not going to go deep, but I know a few things. Theory number one is approach-avoidance conflict. It is when you want to avoid conflict, but kinda itching to approach it. This happens when you are afraid of either side of it.
You do not want to lose the conflict, but you also associate pain in winning. With this, you may tell yourself either side does not feel good so you try to avoid the conflict altogether. Here is an example: Juan and his wife are arguing over who will do the dishes. He doesn’t want to, but he doesn’t want his wife mad at him. So he tries find to a way not do the dishes that won’t make his wife angry. I wish you luck, buddy. Here I just may pick my battle, but this is just me though.
Next is the fear of negative evaluation. No one likes negative feedback or being seen in a negative light. If you believe you might be judged, criticized, or rejected in the conflict there will be apprehensiveness to participate. This theory is very dominant in many relationships, and men tend to lean more in this direction in avoiding conflict with their partners because they see it as an emotionally draining exercise and tend to withdraw.
The effects lead to consequences
The damages can be severe. When both partners avoid conflict, there is zero communication of their wants and needs. This leads to frustration and resentment for both. This opens up a lot of assumptions and silent expectations since there is no communication. A major miscommunication which is a sure-fire road to problems. It can hurt physical intimacy, which then erodes connection. If you do not have physical intimacy, you cannot have connection. Conflict avoidance also negatively affects mental health. The suppression of emotions can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. The physical effects of this are high blood pressure and heart disease.
What are the signs of conflict avoidance?
If you need the signs, here they are:
- Frustration and resentment between partners
- Unexpressed anger
- Either of you is not speaking up for yourselves
- Either partner withdraws from conflict
- Trying to be overly pleasing to the other partner
- Excessive apologizing
- Unspoken assumptions and expectations
Whew! Did it just seem like we read a novel? Now the question is how do we deal with it?
Dealing with being conflict-avoidant in a healthy way
TALK! TALK! TALK! Talk about conflict early. Don’t let it fester. The longer you let things fester, the worse they will get. Next, lets put on our listening hats. For success in any relationship, you must be willing to listen to understand and not listen to respond. Show respect, even if you disagree. Find a solution that works for the both of you. Do not always just fold, because folding is well……avoiding conflict. Do not insult or name-call. If it gets too heated, say hey, “I need a moment to cool off, can we come back to this in an hour?”These are great tips to utilize in conflict resolution and will save couples a lot of heartache if put into practice effectively.