How do you and your partner handle conflict? How fair do you fight? Are you loud, argumentative and spirited? Or are you more quiet, reserved and stoic? Do you try to avoid conflict, or do you stir it up?
Your conflict style is influenced by the family system in which you were raised. There are families that deal with their conflict with avoidance or with aggression, but neither is very helpful. Today, I will talk about Avoidant Family Systems, how they handle conflict, and the problems avoidance causes in families.
Conflict Avoidant Systems
- Avoid conflict and report that everything is ok.
- Deny there is a problem or conflict.
- Minimize the problem or pretend there isn’t one.
- Resist expressing feelings, raising your voice, or cry
- Withhold affection, information, communication from partner
- Use passive aggressive tactics to communicate anger
- Value peace keeping over conflict resolution
- Make it unacceptable to bring up issues
People who have been raised in an Avoidant Family System often feel very uncomfortable dealing with conflict. They see conflict has abnormal or pathological. They see it as a sign that something is wrong in the relationship. They learned early on, that appearing like everything is fine is of higher value than actually making everything fine.
The truth is this: conflict is a normal, healthy thing that arises in all relationships, and must be managed, not hidden. Conflict becomes more powerful and more sinister in nature the longer it is denied or minimized. Avoiding conflict actually separates and isolates family members, and makes each person feel like a stranger in his/her own home. Avoiding relational issues, problems and needs only makes things worse, not better.
Family members often feel lonely or depressed. They may feel angry, but feel bad or guilty about it. They often are not very self-aware about their own feelings, needs or desires, and find it difficult relating to others.
However, if conflict is addressed directly, with skill and wisdom, the members of the family will actually feel closer, safer, and more confident. When conflict is addressed with the goal of resolution, both parties can leave feeling heard and valuable.
How about you? What kind of family system were you raised in, and what did you learn about conflict? How do you address conflict at home, work or relationships now that you’re an adult?
Next week, we will take a look at Aggressive Family Systems their related styles. It’s never to late to learn new and better ways to communicate and resolve conflict.