I grew up in a family that didn’t really know how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. Often my parents played opposite positions in times of conflict, but neither position brought resolution to the problem nor did it bring them together as a couple. They were living-out examples of the extremes in communication. My mother would aggressively confront my dad regarding a problem and my dad would passively run the other way.
In marriage, we tend to follow the example of how our parents related and problem-solved. That’s what I ended up doing. In the early years of my relationship with my husband, I adopted my father’s approach—passively withdrawing from any conflict we had.
The conversations between my husband and I would go something like this …
He would notice that I was being unusually quiet and avoiding him.
He would then say, “Is something wrong, Beth?”
I would say, “No, I’m fine.” (Often said in a curt way)
He would then say, “I can tell that something’s wrong! Tell me the truth, Beth!”
I would say, “No, really, I’m fine!” (Though, still not convincing him!)
At that point, he usually pulled out all the stops to figuratively drag me out of my place of hiding (although it felt as controlling and harsh as being physically dragged out of a hiding place!).
Unfortunately, this approach didn’t work. (Go figure!?)
Instead, it only made matters worse!
My husband and I were making the same opposite-ended mistake that my parents made in their times of conflict. I withdrew from him in steely, cold silence, which felt very much like abandonment or at least harsh rejection. And he advanced forward, pursuing me with such voracity that it seemed to me he turned from simply desiring openness to an all out attack!
Since we were operating at the conflict resolution extremes, we remained deadlocked whenever conflict arose. Correction! There really isn’t conflict “resolution” at the extremes.
[Tweet “Everyone must find the middle ground when trying to resolve conflict.”]
Next I will go into more detail about how to resolve conflicts in a later post. Before I go there, I want to share one more marriage mistake in days to come that sets the stage for discussing conflict resolution. So, stay tuned! But until that time, please let me know, . .
Do you relate to this problem?
Are you still struggling to find that middle ground?
What fears or hesitations get in the way of dealing directly with conflict?