04: Fighting vs. Conflict

by | Podcast

While having conflicts in a relationship can be uncomfortable and challenging, it can also spark growth and positive change. While that is the case, there are also couples who never fight probably because of avoidance of the issue.

However, it is important to approach such situations in a healthy and constructive way to prevent damage and to strengthen the relationship and grow together as partners. That is why, today, we’re here to answer the frequently asked question on why couples constantly fight over the same thing.

Why conflict is an important part of any good healthy relationship

When a relationship is conflict-oriented, there’s usually a mismatch between the partners, not just in terms of their personalities but also in their communication style.

The usual case is that one grew up in an environment where there is constant yelling or fighting whereas the other has a family history of burying and not talking about anything and pretending that everything is alright.

On a positive note, having conflicts in a relationship can lead to growth, understanding, and even improved communication between partners. It can encourage partners to be more open and honest with each other. Also, it can push partners to explore new ideas and perspectives to improve themselves and their relationship.

What is the difference between conflict and fighting?

Conflict is a natural and important part of a relationship. Treat it as an opportunity for growth rather than dismissing or avoiding it. It is because of avoidance that conflict becomes uncomfortable for many.

The conflict is not the problem. It’s how we show up to the conflict that turns them into fights. That’s why it’s important for us to examine these conflicts. You have to determine whether you are fighting over the simple things or fundamental differences.

The main reason as to why there’s an unproductive conflict is because you’re in a triggered state when you’re having these conversations. If your intention of fighting is to get them to change their mind or them to get you to change your mind like in the case of supporting two opposing football teams and convincing the other to switch to your side, it’s never going to happen. You’re going to keep fighting over it and that can feel repetitive and silly.

The four horsemen of the marriage apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling

A metaphor called ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ from marriage therapist professionals, John and Julie Gottman, may come in handy for partners who want to pave the way to having a healthy and productive communication.

The Four Horsemen consists of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. If any of these show up in your conflict, no argument is going to be productive. 

Criticizing your partner is different from complaining as criticism comes in the form of verbal attacks directed towards your partner’s personality or character. To eliminate this, you have to start expressing positive needs and talking about feelings to avoid triggering the other horsemen to follow.

The second horseman is contempt. In this case, one attacks his or her partner with the intent to insult or abuse. This is beyond criticism. The antidote to contempt is for you to establish some gratitude practices around your partner and remind yourself of your partner’s great qualities. 

Defensiveness, on the other hand, is when one is playing the innocent victim so that his or her partner will back off and is reversing the blame to make it look like it’s the other partner’s fault. There really is no room for healthy conflict management in this case. 

And lastly, stonewalling occurs when one suddenly shuts down and stops responding to their partner. It’s a way of evading issues as a result of being overwhelmed from everything, particularly from the negativity brought about by the occurrence of the first three horsemen. 

Taking responsibility for your own stuff is where you start with a lot of these things. There should also be an open and healthy communication between you and your partner to be able to express your thoughts, feelings, and needs more.

And if you feel like you’re constantly fighting about the same thing, take a step back and assess whether or not your fights are circling on something that you’re never going to agree on because conflict can really lead to growth and to a strengthening of the connection, if it’s dealt with in a healthy and constructive way.

If you need more information about The Four Horsemen, you can go to the Gottman website (https://www.gottman.com/). You can also contact a local couples therapist if you and your partner are interested but you can also do it on your own to rebuild your connection and relationship.

Let me help you get ready for these conversations. If you’re interested, you can sign up on my Reinvention Mom website (https://reinventionmom.com/).

Reinventionmom.com to sign up for tips on fighting fair

Fleishman’s in Trouble is on Apple TV

Stay tuned for more episodes and remember to keep having conversations that lead to growth!