The Commonly-Held Myth About Relationship Conflict You Should Stop Believing

If you're in a long-term relationship, you are no stranger to conflict. Maybe you and your partner find yourselves on opposite sides of the political aisle, you have different tastes in paint color for the living room, or you can never settle on the perfect temperature on the thermostat. When you find yourself in conflict with your partner, you might start to feel worried, anxious, or stressed. Disagreements and arguments are often looked at as a sign of a bad relationship, with many believing the myth that the perfect relationship with be conflict-free. Per Makin Wellness, people who are conflict-avoidant fear confrontation so much, they ignore problems in their relationship altogether (which usually ends up making things worse). As much as you may love your partner and want to avoid conflict, disagreements are bound to happen. 

Marriage and family therapist Moe Ari Brown told Insider that "it's very common in our culture for couples to have disagreements," with licensed therapist JaQuinda Jackson chiming in, "There is no average number of times couples have disagreements, in that each couple is different." While most people assume conflict is toxic, it can actually be considered a healthy relationship habit. It may not feel like it while it's happening, but conflict in your relationship can strengthen your bond and your understanding of one another. When it comes to conflict, it's not if you're fighting, but how you are fighting that matters; and even more importantly, how you are resolving your conflicts. 

Why conflict is healthy for a relationship

Choosing Therapy reminds us that conflict is simply the result of two people with different upbringings, experiences, and personalities attempting to merge their lives together. Because of your inherent differences in perspective, the occasional disagreement will happen now and then.

According to communications professor Elizabeth Dorrance Hall Ph.D., "Conflict provides an opportunity for making change." If something is happening in your relationship that hurts one or both of you, conflict is the first step towards resolving that issue and working towards a stronger foundation of understanding.

But sometimes, the surface-level argument isn't what the actual conflict is about, it's merely an indicator of a bigger, more recurring problem. The Gottman Institute calls these "perpetual problems": conflicts that will always arise because of "fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs." Some of the most common perpetual problems are issues concerning housework, finances, family planning, and even sex drive (via Insight & Connection). When navigating these problems, remember that they aren't exactly "solvable," but more likely, you and your partner will need to find a way to live with the difference in understanding, and be conscious of how your reaction to the differences affects the other person. If you can't find that understanding on your own, relationship counseling with a trusted professional is a great option.

During conflict, you and your partner should have the same goal

Understanding that conflict can actually be healthy for a relationship is one thing, but to experience it with the person you love most is definitely unpleasant. In order to resolve your relationship conflict, both parties need to be direct, honest, and willing to hear the other person's perspective without judgment (via HelpGuide). Communicate to your partner about your efforts to resolve things and listen to their perspective, ask questions if you don't understand something, and try your best not to place blame. Psychology Today recommends being present when speaking about the current conflict, instead of generalizing with phrases like "you always" or "you never."

When in conflict with your partner, you're still on the same team; it's the two of you versus the problem, working together to find a resolution. If conflicts arise too often, or cannot be resolved respectfully, it might be a sign that you and your partner aren't compatible. Per Connolly Counselling Centre, conflict resolution should never include fear, manipulation, threats, or any form of abuse or violence. Seek professional guidance if this occurs, and remember that healthy relationship conflict is rooted in the search for understanding, and resolved with respect and love.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.