Couple sitting and talking
Credit: Dragunsk on Flickr/License CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Conflict is typically perceived as being a negative type of interaction. With couples, it is almost always associated as a "problem", but should it be?

While many couples enjoy a healthy degree of debate, when it comes to arguing with a loved one over "life" issues, sometimes people try to avoid these types of disagreements. However, a degree of conflict is normal in any committed relationship. No matter how compatible two people are, chances are they will not likely agree on every single issue that comes up. Whether it be how to hang towels or handling the management of money or anything in between. It is inevitable some level of conflict will arise at some point, be it over an issue that is somewhat trivial or something more serious.

Relationships that don't address any conflict can end up with problems, and some of these problems may be difficult to resolve once taking root in the relationship's foundation. However, when both partners are comfortable enough with one another to share their disappointments, frustrations and/or even anger, this can enhance and be healthy for the relationship. Communication is an important concept to master in any type of relationship, but for committed couples it is critical.

ber-antem (fight) is a must in relationship
Credit: Dimaz Fakhruddin (morningshadow on Flickr)/CC BY 2.0 with Attribution

Per photographer description: "Ber-antem (fight) is a must in relationship"

When conflict avoidance occurs, this doesn't mean conflict is absent in the relationship, what it means is the differences are not being addressed and, instead, the conflict is being suppressed. Over the long-term, this can eventually lead to relationship problems - and often serious ones.

Conflicts are not the ideal activity to engage in a relationship, nor are they typically enjoyable, but working through them is necessary aspect of being in a partnership. Not only is doing the work through a conflict necessary, it can actually improve a relationship.

Ways conflict can improve a relationship and draw a couple closer together include:

1. Stronger and Better Communication

When two partners are willing to share their innermost feelings and thoughts, even the difficult ones, this helps form a solid foundation for communication. Since communication is an important element in a successful relationship, couples who can openly share and not be afraid of conflict realize they experience a nice closeness which can lead to higher levels of intimacy.

The key to developing stronger and better communication is the way disagreements are expressed. To be successful, dialogue must be fair, kind and each person must be willing to listen to the other person's viewpoint. Also, work to ditch the sarcasm. 1 Even if it's tempting to use.

2. Higher Levels of Intimacy

Open and honest communication and a willingness to face feelings of discord can lead to better intimacy. Conflict doesn't have to be something to avoid, it can instead be viewed as a trip to take together. Couples who are willing to journey a tough or bumpy ride together often become closer in the process, increasing the level of intimacy shared.

Couple in loveCredit: sharayah Sherry from Boise, United States/Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license w/Attribution

3. Improve Ability to Compromise

In any relationship levels of compromise are necessary, however the dynamics in committed love relationships is a bit different. It is unfair for one partner to always get his or her way, not to mention this can lead to harbored resentment which may or may not be revealed outright. If these feelings of frustration are kept inside too long, problematic relationship issues can result. It is only a matter of time before the partner suppressing resentment gets mad and the issue can escalate to be a problem far worse than it was in the beginning.

On the other hand, couples who can effectively learn how to compromise and/or learn how to agree to disagree will have an easier time coming to a resolution that is fair to both partners. Minus the resentment.

4. Increase Understanding

Couples who are able to find joint resolution by working through their conflict often find they have better understanding of one another and gain strong insight to what makes the other person tick. Along with better communication and strengthened intimacy, the mutual respect revealed through increased understanding is good for the relationship.

5. Improve Listening Skills

Talking out disagreements is a two-way street. In order for communication to be successful, both partners have to actively participate in speaking and listening. It can often be hard to listen to a viewpoint that strongly disagreeable, but being open to do this helps us grow. It also helps strengthen a relationship. This is an important skill which can also transfer to other areas of our lives as well, be it personal or at work.

Conflict is not always the most enjoyable part of relationships, however it is natural component that will arise at some point. Some relationships have higher levels of conflict than others, but zero conflict is usually not the norm. Not expressing one's frustration or disagreement can lead to relationship problems. Instead of focusing on the negative connotation that conflict seems to bring out, couples who focus on the positive aspects of conflict are more likely to find their relationship stronger. Not only stronger, but seeing growth as well.

“Engaging in conflict isn’t going to end the relationship, it’s avoiding the conflict [that might],” says Michael Batshaw, LCSW, a psychologist based in New York City. Batshaw  specializes in couples and author of 51 Things You Should Know Before Getting Engaged.  (via Psych Central) 2

Conflict is often given a bad rap as Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S notes 2, but it really shouldn't be perceived as a "bad" thing. Without conflict, we don't have the opportunity to learn and grow. In committed relationships, this is also important.


[Related reading you may be interested in: Making Valentine Emotions Last]

waves breaking
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Successfully navigating the rough waters that can accompany conflict can emerge in a partnership is beneficial to any relationship in the long run.