Necessary Conflict

Conflict is a natural byproduct of relationships, because people with ideas and opinions often disagree. Unhealthy conflict can cause blood pressure to rise, and turn sane people into raging lunatics. But healthy conflict is very necessary because it helps us address problems that frankly need to be addressed.

With a natural disaster polluting the ocean, political wars ravaging our hearts, and reality TV littering our airwaves, conflict is everywhere. It happens at the office and it happens at home. It happens on ball fields, highways, supermarkets and airplanes. It’s part of the human experience, and it’s essential for our continued evolution.

Conflict has always been the center of growth and exploration because our need to understand motivates us to address it. Scientists work day and night trying to unlock new sources of alternative energy and new cures for old nemeses. Engineers try to solve intricate mathematical puzzles to erect impossible structures above ground and beneath the ocean floor. And kids look out their windows on clear, star filled nights, wondering how it all happened. Conflict is what awakens our human ingenuity, and gets our wheels churning. And it works better than any synthesized drug on the black market.

Conflict also plays a big part in relationships. Two people inevitably will run into some sort of disagreement over the course of their time together. The big three sources of conflict within most relationships are money, kids and sex. Disagreements happen for quantitative reasons – too little or too much- or for qualitative reasons-how we define the experience. But it’s how we resolve these conflicts that ultimately define our partnership.

Sometimes the answers are easy. “If you give me something, I’ll give you something.” That would be called compromise, and that’s born from communication. Sometimes the answers are not so easy, and might take many conversations in the company of a licensed professional. Because we all come to every situation and relationship with our bag of “stuff.” Not necessarily our bag of karma, although that certainly accompanies us too, but our bag of learned responses that we’ve gathered over the years on this planet. And when our “stuff” clashes with someone else’s “stuff,” conflict happens.

Being more aware of the pitfalls that are part of relationships can help us sort out conflict. Understanding that conflict is inevitable is the first step, because it will help us feel more comfortable with it. Because conflict seems to be something most people avoid like a stranger on a quiet city street, in the late hours of the night. But conflict is something that has to be embraced in order for resolution to happen. It’s not fun, but it can’t be ignored, otherwise it just multiplies and gathers momentum, like the germs scientists work so hard to eradicate.

Life should be enjoyed to the fullest, but that doesn’t mean conflict isn’t present each and every day. But just keep in mind that without conflict billions of years ago, somewhere out in the vast universe, we all might not be here today.


Would you rather deal with conflict head on or ignore it?

What kind of conflict is worth addressing?

How often do you deal with conflict in your life?

How do you deal with conflict in your primary relationships? Spouse, partner, kids?

26 Comments on Necessary Conflict

  1. Personally, I hate conflict and do try to avoid it, at times. Just being honest. Wish more folks could do the same. Anyway, there are conflicts that should be met head on. Important ones. The life-changing kind. And they should be met head on in order to resolve them. To solve a problem. To regain harmony and maybe, in some cases, work toward progress. At least try to. It takes courage and common sense to do so, for sure. I’m into feelings and circumstances of balance and harmony, myself. Conflict and chaos, just the words, themselves, go against my nature and what I believe. But, at times, they do have to be met head on.

    End of sermon. Now go in peace. lol. Take care, Guys

  2. There are people who thrive on conflict and chaos because it is the only way they can actually feel like they are alive. I am not one of those people. I am not saying that I ignore it–I just choose not to participate unless it is for the good of the collective, and I am one of the collective. If it is bad for me, but self-serving for others, then I choose to distance myself for my own protection. Sometimes there is just no way to regain harmony, if it ever existed, or work toward progress, if you are dealing with unreasonable people. I think it is just plain wrong to allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict in which the outcome is detrimental to your well-being.

  3. I can remember my mother say to me if you don’t get into conflicts with some people true friendship cannot emerged .I thought it sounded too bizarre to be true ..but from my little experience I think she is somewhat right ……and like you have highlighted yes , conflict is almost everywhere ……….. But where possible will reduce conflict as much as possible because …… Great post Guys 🙂

  4. @Kelly……….We shouldn’t ignore conflicts because they’re difficult. But we agree that some conflicts are best avoided. But remember conflicts happen all the time……..who gets to control the remote for the night.

    @Judie………….We couldn’t agree more. There are a lot of people who look for conflicts as a way to feel alive, as you said. But we can’t let the threat of a conflict get in the way of our growth.

    @Fatima………..Sometimes an initial conflict can actually reduce the amount of conflicts you might have with someone. And to discuss the problem early on will stop it from actually festering and building momentum. Then it becomes this huge issue.

  5. When we are close to people there will always be conflict. This is also the way we learn and grow. A healthy relationship should be one that challenges us and where it is safe to have a bit of conflict within boundaries. eg just as in a healthy classroom there are boundaries such as no hitting, yelling, and logical consequences for certain actions, healthy boundaries in relationships, especially in a loving relationship with your partner, may include not allowing the argument to go overnight, holding hands while addressing sensitive issues, not bringing up past arguments…

    I grew up in a household where arguments were not seen so I was so averse to conflict however a certain amount of conflict is healthy. I have always been drawn to hotblooded Italian or South American families who can yell and get over it in five minutes.

    To not deal with conflict at all is perhaps less healthy and in extremes can turn inward to depression.

    I say get a boxing bag and use it!! Then when the emotions are out of it, tackle the issue in a healthy, respectful way.

  6. Choosing one’s battles is most certainly a very effective way of keeping the balance scale just right in every thing we do and say. We can work on how we deal with issues and conflicts, unfortunately we can not control we work a little harder to teach by example.

    Conflict is inevitable…this is as true as the sun coming up each and every day…it is however how we choose to deal with the said conflict that makes all of the difference in the outcome~

    Excellent topic Guys~

  7. @Cathy……your examples of healthy conflict are fabulous. Like you said, ignoring it is less healthy. Deal with it, get it all out and then move on! Amen!!

    @Dorothy……….”Choosing one’s battles.” Well said, Dorothy. Not everything is worth fighting over. Or even discussing.

  8. It depends upon who the conflict is with, but for the most part I loathe conflict and avoid it like the plague, which unfortunately means I tend to get walked all over by certain people who take advantage of that. I do address conflict when I’m forced to, but for the most part I’m content to let it go if I can.

    For some reason, it’s easier for me to deal with conflict if it’s a partner or kids, but when it comes to my parents, other family, friends, etc. I avoid it.

    Great post!

  9. i hate conflict. just reading this post makes me uneasy. but you’re right: ignoring it will just make it multiply and gain momentum, and become impossible to eradicate. ugh, now i’m depressed at all my failed conflicts.

  10. I ignore anything that impinges on my happiness. I’m fine with disagreements, but if people want to argue who’s right or wrong, I’m not interested. They can be right for all I care. People who are unhappy with their life situation look to blame or control others. When I see someone doing this, I politely shrug my shoulders and back off.

  11. I have NO issues with compromising, but I absolutely LOATHE conflict.

  12. “And kids look out their windows on clear, star filled nights, wondering how it all happened.”

    Can you publish a sentence? That was fantastic.

    About the actual post…I hate conflict. I will do everything in my power to not have any in my life. It helps that I have a “Go with the flow” type of personality, but I can certainly see where this can be harmful. It’s funny because my BFF gets mad at me all the time when I tell her about a problem I’m having. “Why do you let people get away with those things?!” Then I constantly have to remind her to pick her battles. We’re both trying to help each other balance out.

  13. @Raven……….Conflict is never fun that’s for sure. You’re not alone. Most people hate conflict. We all do too. But like you said, it’s also not fun to be walked all over.

    @Patty Punker……….Now don’t be depressed. We’re just sayin’!

    @Nothing Profound……….There’s nothing worse than the argument that goes on and on, with one person trying to convince the other they’re wrong, and vice versa. What a big waste of time and energy!

    @Meleah…………..Compromise is good for the most part.

    @Lovy………..Thanks. You and your BFF balance each other out well. It is all about picking your battles.

  14. I stay away from Conflicts all the time. Most of them are just simple discussions. But can turn into arguments or worse, a fight. Though, there are some that need to be addressed. They need to be discussed in a proper and a civilized manner.
    Great post, guys…:)

  15. I have a motto: Don’t start none, won’t be none. However that doesn’t always hold true. My personality and experiences have made me unafraid to face a conflict. I just don’t go looking for them. In my opinion conflict is natural as well as necessary. No two people will feel, think, or perceive a situation the same way. What’s important to me may be frivolous to you, thus the makings of conflict.

    What makes conflicts so hurtful is the level that combatants (and that’s what they become) disregard each other’s feelings. If I disagree with something that was done, but I get the overall feeling it wasn’t done maliciously, the conflict is brief, and a resolution is reached pretty quickly. On the other hand, if I feel that my feelings are being disregarded or worse, stomped on, then yes I go into battle mode. Because the conflict is no longer about the incident, it becomes a matter of respect or the lack thereof. And that is a matter that I will always address.

    So before I get kicked out of the club for being confrontational, I close with this (doing my best Perry Mason). Conflict is nothing to be afraid of, and can’t always be avoided. What you can control (mostly) in a conflict is your reaction. And the best way to get a handle on your reaction is to ask yourself, “Is this person just disagreeing with me, or is this about something else.”

    Great post as always my Guys. Keep ‘em coming.

  16. For me, ignoring conflict is as good as running away from it. I would rather deal with it head on. As to how often I am dealing with conflict, as you mentioned, conflict is everywhere; so we are basically dealing with conflict everyday and everywhere.

  17. I’m all about dealing with conflict head on. In fact, over the years I’ve had to (and continue to) work on seriously softening my delivery. I don’t recommend the bull-in-the-china-shop approach. 🙂 (a familial behavior I’m trying to unlearn) I’m really a huge marshmallow when you get to know me.

    It’s been particularly interesting for me working the last 3.5 years in a very passive (and often passive-aggressive), female-dominated, quasi-government environment. I was previously in male-dominated environments where my outspoken nature worked well. At this current job, I’ve had to really work on my tongue-biting skills. That, however, is not my nature and sooner rather than later my views are voiced.

    I do find some conflicts particularly invigorating, especially the David and Goliath type scenarios. And then there is always the relationship conflict that ends in make-up nookie. That’s good stuff 😉

  18. I really hate unnecessary confrontation, but I would much rather address a serious issue and get it over with. It takes a lot to make me mad, but it also takes me awhile to completely move on. This rarely, rarely happens in my relationships-friends, significant other, family, etc. I’m always up for civilized discussions, however. I just mostly hate when I’m accused of something I didn’t do. Like my pseudo-boss over the weekend. At 2 am. On a SATURDAY. I’m over it now. Have fun finding someone new, dude. Haha.

  19. Last year, Rod gave me an anniversary card that had photo of a cat and a dog, standing up, hugging each other. The inside read “in our own weird way, we work.” It was the best card he had ever given me, because he recognizes that even though we can be as different as night and day, we have established a commonality that keeps us together and on an even keel. Any conflicts that we may have are incidental and are solved by the fact that we know and respect each other’s differences.

    Anyone who has been reading my blog lately knows that I have had more conflict in my life than the law allows. I “know when to hold ‘um, know when to fold ‘um, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

  20. @Mr. Stupid…….Civilized is important. As soon as things heat up too much, resolution is close to impossible.

    @Naughtie……..You’ve covered it exactly! Love what you say about controlling your reactions.

    @BK…………..Yes we are. It’s just a natural part of relationships.

    @Kernut………..We’d like to get to know you better, otherwise you sound too scary! 🙂

    @Brooke……………What in the world could he be accusing you of at 2am???

  21. @Judie………….Love the last two lines. That’s called wisdom from experience!

  22. The only kind of conflict I have is the massive blood pressure rising kind.

    When I get mad, it’s all ‘cock-sucker’ and ‘whore’ depending who my deranged anger is directed towards!!!

    I dont handle conflict well, because I have no patience and my ears and hearing seem to be connected STRAIGHT to my I’m PISSED and don’t give a fuck what you say bone.

    I immediately go on the defense and say shit I don’t mean because I’d much rather be the hurt’er’ than the one who might get hurt…

    There you assholes go again… another little piece of CB broken down for you. Hope you’re happy! Waited until you posted a new post to write this so no one would see it! I’m fucking clever that way you know!

  23. Another thought-provoking post, Guys! I love your site!

    Great questions, as usual (also). Here’s my .02!

    Would you rather deal with conflict head on or ignore it?

    Personally, I *have* to deal with conflict head on. If there’s trouble brewing, I cannot sleep at night and I need my sleep! My husband and I have a policy to never go to bed angry–we resolve our conflicts–even if it means staying up late to do so. I think if you don’t address conflicts, they fester and become bigger than they should be.

    What kind of conflict is worth addressing?

    Any conflict that is interfering with your peace and/or happiness is worth addressing. And I think that is most conflict–unless it is with a stranger over a parking space or something.

    How often do you deal with conflict in your life?

    I don’t have a lot of conflict in my life–I honestly don’t. I try hard to keep my life harmonious and to deter situations of conflict because my life was so chaotic in my early years. I think a big part of avoiding conflict is to try to put yourself in the other person’s position. When we try to view a situation from another’s point of view, we can often diffuse the situation. Simple empathy and understanding go a long way.

    How do you deal with conflict in your primary relationships? Spouse, partner, kids?

    As I said, my husband and I talk it out. We have both been married previously and our past relationships were not communicative ones. When we first started our relationship and it got serious, we promised we’d always be open with each other. If you don’t resolve conflicts, they can REALLY become so much bigger. I think a big part of resolving conflicts is to listen carefully to what the other has to say and to always let the other say their piece without interruption.

  24. I am VERY patient. I can deal with conflict. I can let things slide and see both sides of an argument, but IF EVER I get pushed up against the wall. My boundaries, good will, and fairness really stomped on. I will unleash the fight. 🙂 Then, I’m good.

    So I guess I don’t handle it all that well. I feel like Switzerland most of the time. 🙂

  25. Great and timely post, considering all the problems going on today with the recession, oil spill, etc. People’s nerves are frayed. I try to avoid conflict at all costs, but this hasn’t really served me either. It seems we need to figure out better ways of communicating, and approach people with less skepticism…we’re all trying to figure things out. Maybe we don’t make the best decisions, but we need to be more forgiving to help us make better ones.

    This is a longer conversation, but interesting post as usual.

  26. @Ash……We love getting the inside scoop about our favorite crazy brunette! We don’t ever want to see you angry!

    @Melinda………..Thanks for sharing your experiences with dealing with conflict. You and your husband seem like you have a great handle on working out issues. It’s great you figured that out ahead of time.

    @Angelia………..Sometimes people just go too far. It’s good that you have your limits.

    @Kelly……..Yes, we all could be more forgiving. Sometimes it’s hard. And part of it is, the other person needs to help. Sometimes they make it so difficult that it’s impossible to be forgiving. They just don’t stop their bad behavior.

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