What Actually Creates Conflict for Couples? 

Hopefully you've read the first few chapters of my book by now... so you'll know that surprisingly, it's the things that couples do to keep their relationship safe and conflict-free, that actually create the problems in their relationship down-the-track! Isn't it ironic that the very things couples do to avoid conflict, actually end up creating conflict in their relationship instead?!

As I said in those chapters, this is the first part of what I call "The Marriage Conundrum". And I call it a conundrum because couples don't realize that what they're doing isn't working. So they keep doing those very same things over and overwith the very best of intentions (to try to fix their relationship)—not realising that the more they do them, the worse things are going to get.

Peace-Keeping Behaviors

Just to recap; you might remember that the couples end up fighting because of what I call "Peace-Keeping Behaviors"—things that are designed to try to avoid conflict in their relationship (but don't work for long). These behaviors might include:

  • not talking about a particular topic, because you're worried your partner might react badly
  • regularly saying "yes" and going along with what your partner wants, when you really want to say "no"
  • letting your partner get their own way (prioritizing their wants and needs ahead of yours), because you don't want to upset them or you're worried they might get angry, or react badly
  • pulling away, rather than being willing to talk about something that upset you
  • and many other ways that couples try to avoid conflict

And of course it makes sense that people want to avoid conflict in their relationship. So it's understandable that most couples do some of these things, but they just don't work.

And not only do these behaviors not work, but the more you do them, the more resentment you start to feel. Because let's face it, no-one wants to be in a relationship where they constantly feel like they have to censor themselves, or prioritize their partner's wants or needs, or not talk about something that they think is important... just to avoid a fight. And this is why these Peace-Keeping Behaviors, which, despite being well-intended and designed to keep the relationship safe and on-track, actually lead to feelings of resentment and frustration over time.

So let's apply this to your relationship:

How do you think this might be affecting your relationship? It's not about changing or fixing these things yet! For now it's just about becoming "an observer" of your relationship.

Consider the following:

  • What things do you personally do to avoid fighting or arguing (if anything)?
  • Do you think your partner does things to avoid conflict or fighting too?

As I said, this first step isn't about changing anything. It's is just about starting to take notice and "observe" what you see going on around "peace-keeping" in your relationship.

Now don't get me wrong; I know that as soon as you see this, you might want to change things and stop any type of peace-keeping between you. And of course you do! But believe me; that's not necessarily a great idea—YET—because doing that without knowing what else is getting in the way, might actually create more fights and make things even worse instead.

As we keep going I’m going to show you exactly what you can do and say to change these behaviors and to resolve the issues between you—and make things better in the process. But for now, just start by becoming an "observer" of the Peace-Keeping Behaviors in your relationship.

Let me know what you discover about your relationship in the comments below...

Sharing this with others in this way is a good way to get really clear on what you find yourself doing. And also what you notice your partner doing to avoid conflict or keep the peace...

About Paul McNiff

Paul McNiff is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist who specialises in helping people overcome anxiety and make their relationships amazing! Paul works with couples and individuals both in-person and online in Brisbane, and also works with people throughout Australia and globally via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and phone. His passion is helping people to completely overcome the blocks and habits that hold them back in their lives, so they can take back their power and experience freedom, joy, and a true sense of happiness.

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