By Amanda Vining, IATG ContributorApril 18, 2016
I have always had difficulty with conflict. Even healthy conflict, which occurs naturally in every relationship and friendship, is intimidating for me. Bringing up and discussing uncomfortable topics is scary and my entire life, I have found myself going out of my way to avoid it! It’s not that I don’t want to address issues in order to make my relationships stronger, but I’ve always shied away from tackling difficult conversations head on.
I’m not an anomaly when it comes to conflict. Without argument, relationships are most enjoyable when everything is peaceful.
But no relationship can grow stronger without overcoming hurdles.
Whether it’s a friendship, a professional relationship, a romantic relationship, or the dynamic within your family, all relationships require compromise and understanding of the other person. This can be most trying when conflict is involved.
I recently began a new romantic relationship with a guy I absolutely adore. We’re now at the point in our relationship when the initial charm has worn off, and we’re beginning to settle into our groove as a couple. But with that groove comes the awareness of each other’s quirks and learning how to communicate with one another. My initial instinct when I discover something that bothers me within a relationship is to ignore it and focus on the enjoyable parts of the relationship, which isn’t productive or fair to my partner because I’m not giving him the respect of discussing our relationship openly. So when my partner sat me down and told me that he wanted me to talk about the things in our relationship that annoyed me because he had noticed that I seemed bothered, I froze and refused to talk. I tried my best to change the subject and divert the conversation. Fortunately, my partner pushes me to grow as a person, and he didn’t accept my attempts at fooling the discussion. Slowly and surely, I opened up and told him what was on my mind.
It was hard and terrifying to do, but I let my guard down and afforded our relationship the opportunity to overcome conflict. And guess what? The world didn’t end! Nothing catastrophic happened, which left me wondering, what scares me so much about conflict?
I wanted to learn more about myself and why conflict seems like such a scary thing, so I turned to self-reflective activities like meditation and journaling that allow me to express myself and get to better know who I am. What I’ve begun to realize is that conflict terrifies me, because I’m afraid that it’s going to signal the end of a relationship. I value all of the people in my life tremendously, so the thought of no longer having them in my life is beyond upsetting.
When conflict arises, it can take a lot of courage to accept that it’s a natural part of any relationship. There will be more good times on the other side of the uncomfortable discussion.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative emotions of fear and anxiety that come with hitting a bump in a relationship. I also learned that I’m afraid of receiving negative feedback from someone I love. I believe that I’m fairly open to constructive feedback, but it can be trying and extremely humbling to receive genuine feedback from the people closest to you. Most importantly, I learned that putting in the effort to work on a relationship comes from a place of love. As I move forward, I want to continue to explore why conflict frightens me so much and what I can do to approach it with a new attitude.
Do you avoid conflict? Like Amanda, try journaling or meditating to discover your fear behind conflict. Then try and engage in one of those tough conversations!
Amanda lives in Austin, where she strives every day to be as BRAVE and BeautyFULL as she can be. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. In her spare time, she is scouring Pinterest for her latest craft project, and advocating for sexual violence prevention on her blog, Talk About Rape (www.talkaboutrape.com.)