Some things ARE worth fighting for.
Here's an unexpected truth for you— If you’re NOT fighting with your partner, you're relationship might be in trouble.
Most couples think that not fighting is a good thing. After all, who actually wants to have conflict with the one they love? It’s hard and feels scary, confusing, and often brings up past relationship wounds (where fighting got out of hand).
But the issue with always keeping the peace (e.g. not rocking the boat) is that you can end up feeling miles apart from your partner.
Why? Because you’re not talking about the important stuff. Because you can’t fully be yourself if you're hiding or ignoring what is really important to you.
Also, because it's in working through tension together that couples create great, lasting intimacy.
So, how do you know if you and your partner are being overly conflict-avoidant? Here are the symptoms to watch for:
1. You get along but don't really feel close.
Frequently feeling lonely when you're with your partner is a big red flag. Ask yourself, from 1 to 10, how close do you feel? If you or your partner are at a 7 or below, you may want to talk about why.
2. You don’t bring up certain topics.
Perhaps you really want to spice up your sex life, but you’re afraid that merely broaching the subject will cause huge distance. Or, you may have a consistent feeling of walking on eggshells when near your partner.
3. You hide things from your partner.
You keep certain things hidden from your partner ... whether it's feelings or activities you're participating in. You don’t trouble them with “petty details” about trouble at work because you don’t want to bother them.
4. You feel nervous even thinking of having a real conversation with your partner.
When you even think about discussing something difficult with your partner, you feel a knot in your stomach. You decide you’ll wait until “the right time.”
So, if the above symptoms feel familiar — how do you break the cycle of avoiding conflict and finally connect with your partner in a real way?
A good first step is to ask yourself: “What do I need in order to really feel good in my relationship?” What do I want more of or less of? What am I not sharing with my partner that is actually important for me?”
Think about the following topics — Sex and intimacy, money, your future, children —and see if any of these feel too taboo to talk about. What effect is not discussing them having on your relationship?
Yes, it’s scary to talk about the hard stuff. But it’s even scarier to think you could go days, months, or even years sweeping things under the rug, not getting to be your true, honest, and open self with your partner.
With that in mind, talking about it seems worth the risk. That seems like a goal worth fighting for.
If you need help talking about the hard stuff with your partner, The couples center in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Palo Alto can offer you the tools and support you need. They also offer sliding scale options for people with need.