Love, Self

Why Even The HEALTHIEST Relationships Have Intense Conflict

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Why Even The HEALTHIEST Relationships Have Intense Conflict

I used to love harmony in my family.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t just love harmony — I needed it. A calm, peaceful home with little conflict was essential to me. It’s something that my soul yearned for, and for a long time, I would do anything to maintain it.

Sadly, this need kept me from having healthy relationships.

Our Relationship Patterns Start In Childhood

When I was growing up, my family members often fought. I withheld my opinions, just so I wouldn’t contribute to the upheaval. It was a reflex; something I did without question.

I ducked and fled the scene or kept quiet, not taking sides. I never made my opinion known, and just told those involved what they wanted to hear.

At first, I reaped all the benefits. I was considered the nice one. Everyone loved me because they could get along with me so easily.

But, it turns out many of my relationships were harmonious because that was what was most important to me.

Avoiding Conflict Affects Our Health

Over time these relationships started taking a toll on me because I felt the weight of not being honest. These were no longer healthy relationships.

I dreaded being in the presence of those closest to me because I knew it would mean disowning a part of myself. This didn’t feel good, but I didn’t understand that I had a choice.

Later on, during my first marriage, I continued on this path. I would diffuse disagreements by giving in, just so the home could remain peaceful.

I thought I was helping my marriage because surely my husband had the same need for harmony as I did.

Uncovering Your Patterns

For a long time, I had thought of self-care as being something that happens on the outside: rest, meditation, a massage, or down time with loved ones. However, as I focused my work inward, I understood, that self-care has an inner component to it as well.

Think about it: we can engage in the most indulgent outer self-care in the world — from cutting-edge nutrition to ancient rituals — but if we don’t investigate what lies beneath, we will never come close to the only part of us over which we actually have control.

It’s here in our reflection where we uncover the patterns that we uphold and that exhaust us.

I was maintaining harmony for the sake of harmony but was really suffering as a result of it and it kept me from experiencing healthy relationships.

As this increasingly affected my physical health, I had to take an honest look at how I wanted to feel. We often don’t like what lies beneath because we have to step away from the persona that others have come to expect as always nice.

When we’ve built our identity around it, it’s difficult to dismantle it or to even know how to behave in new ways.

Creating Healthy Relationships Can Be Uncomfortable

Knowing how to have a healthy relationship, we have to accept our shadow. I had to learn that I felt really angry with some of the people closest to me and with myself for not speaking up. Acknowledging this truth was uncomfortable. And it took awhile for me to change my behavior.

But there was also a relief in it because once I saw it, I was able to transform it.

A very gifted teacher once told me: "If you are creating harmony by avoiding conflict, you really have no harmony at all. You have to walk through the conflict to create deep and lasting harmony."

And wasn’t that the truth?! I had to start facing the people I had pacified through my avoidance and talk to them honestly. And believe me, this didn’t come easily.

But I learned that I honor those around me and myself much more when I face a conflict and express my true feelings. I give them and myself the respect and space to respond we all deserve.

Healthy Relationships Require Ongoing Practice

In my current marriage, I can still have the tendency to want to go back to my old behavior. However, since I now am aware of my pattern, I can stop myself. Because of this, I never allow my anger or frustration to fester. When a disagreement comes up, I speak up, no matter how uncomfortable it still can be.

I always feared that if I speak up, I create disharmony. Yet, now when I face conflict right away, I can be respectful in discussing the issue. Arguments that have been suppressed over a long period of time become fairly explosive when they are finally addressed.

If we rack up enough resentment, we feel entitled to spew. So it’s best to nip it in the bud and get through it as soon as possible. And the lovely thing is when we do face a conflict and get through it, at the other end we can relax into a deep, much more genuine harmony.

Selina Schuh is an educator, author, and speaker at Empowered Living Strategies. She teaches women who are feeling frustrated and under-appreciated in their relationships step-by-step skills to create deeply connected relationships. Contact her for a complementary 30-minute phone conversation and click here to download her free tool to creating healthy relationships.

Watch this TED Talk by CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke about conflict and how to use it to transform your relationships:

This article was originally published at Empowered Living Strategies. Reprinted with permission from the author.