Conflict Avoidance and Why It’s a Great Relationship Tool

Conflict Avoidance and Why It's a Great Relationship Tool
{Print via Nick Agin on Etsy}

We all have them…

Those certain arguments in our relationships that just never seem to get resolved.

Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s always (always) late anytime you go anywhere, or maybe it’s about the way he never does the laundry “right.” Whatever it is, these are the disagreements that just never seem to get resolved and they are the ones that we often end up bickering about most. The current thought in the world of marriage therapists (and the general public as well) is that it is important to communicate with your partner about such frustrations and hash them out until you reach a solution.

But a recent study, shared in TIME, may prove this general consensus to be at the very least, a bit misguided.

“…a new study suggests that the avoidance part of the pattern may not be as damaging as counselors once thought — at least not for long-married couples over age 60. The study, led by San Francisco State University psychologist Sarah Holley, followed 127 couples for 13 years, one group ages 40 to 50 and one group of long-married couples, ages 60 to 70. At three points over that time, she videotaped them discussing an area of conflict. Over that period, all of the relationship dynamics between the couples stayed constant, including the amount of blame, pressure and withdrawal, but there was a dramatic increase among the older couples of how often both the husbands and wives avoided the difficult subject.”

I may not be over the age of 60, but I feel that conflict avoidance can often be helpful in younger marriages as well. The reasoning behind this study is that “In addition, experience may help older couples to be more adept at picking the right fights. Years of prior conflicts may have taught them to recognize which issues are worth debating and trying to resolve, and which will only devolve into unhealthy bickering.”

I may not have been married for 30 years yet, but this is definitely a relationship tool that I pull out of my repertoire from time to time. I’m not saying that couples should just ignore all of their issues and simply not address them, but I am saying that some fights just aren’t worth having and it’s up to you and your partner to figure out what those might be.

I may only be 28, but I’ve been with my husband for 11 years now (high school sweethearts) and over the years I have definitely learned how to pick my battles. I am always trying to ask myself: “Will this really matter in the long run?” and if the answer is no, I just let it go, because if I am planning to spend the rest of my life with this man (which I am), then I can either let these little annoyances drive me crazy, or I can just learn to live with the ones that don’t really matter and know that my husband also extends the same grace to me in my flaws.

I think the hardest part about this notion is knowing what is worth fighting for and what is worth letting go and unfortunately I can’t really give you a straight answer on what that is, because it will look different for every couple. I think at the core though, you can simply ask yourself if this is something that is simply an annoyance or if it is something that is causing real damage to your relationship. If it is the latter, then please do adress these issues with your partner and/or a counselor. But if the answer is that this is just a little annoyance, then perhaps it may be time to exercise a little conflict avoidance.

What do you think about this idea? Is conflict avoidance a great relationship tool or a relationship pitfall? Feel free to weigh in in the comments!

{Lead photo: Screen print via Nick Agin on Etsy}

{Article source: TIME: “How Not Talking About Conflict Can Help a Marriage Last” by Francine Russo}


Article Posted 3 years Ago

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