Blog post written by,
Dr. Tetiana Sukach
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
When it comes to conflict there is a general tendency in our society to view it as something “bad” or to assume that a relationship is in some shaky territory. However, that is not necessarily true. Conflict is inevitable in relationships. The quality of a relationship is not defined by the mere presence of conflict, but rather by how partners handle it. Quite commonly our understanding of what conflict looks like and how to manage it comes from our past experiences in our families and relationships.
In addition to social views of conflict, your past experiences with conflict (both those you were a part of and those that you witnessed around you) reinforce your understanding of it. You are more likely to define conflict through a set of behaviors you saw in your family/past relationships and your behavioral repertoire may be limited to what you witnessed. For example, if all you saw in your family is conflict that was explosive and fueled by anger, you may inherit such behaviors as a roadmap of how to act when faced with conflict. In such instances, you may be finding yourself automatically mirroring that explosive way of communication in your relationship with your partner, thus repeating the same pattern. It is also possible that seeing explosive conflict in your family was emotionally overwhelming and scary for you, so you learned to avoid it or withdraw out of need to protect yourself from emotional distress. You may notice yourself having a tendency to withdraw from emotionally charged interactions, fear conversations that may lead to disagreements, become pleasing in an effort to minimize potential for conflict, distance yourself from your partner, or suppress your own needs.
On the other hand, if you got an opportunity to witness and experience constructive conflict in your family, it may serve as a positive model for how differences and disagreements can be tolerated and respected. Witnessing such conflict demonstrated to you that conflict can be an opportunity to learn something new about your partner, better understand their stance on a particular issue, learn about their worldview, and so on. If it was safe for you to express your thoughts and emotions in your family, the occurrence of conflict does not present a threat to your relationship and you are more equipped in managing conflict in a more constructive manner.
Whatever conflict looked like in your family of origin or your past relationships, it has undoubtedly impacted your view of conflict and how you are inclined to behave in those instances, but it does not mean that you have to continue the pattern. Awareness and understanding of how conflict unfolded in your life up to this point can help you define areas for growth. The first step you can take is to recognize how you make meaning of past conflict experiences and how they inform your view and behavior in your current relationships.
I invite you to take a moment and reflect on your perception of conflict. It can be very hard to acknowledge some painful dynamics in our families, but I encourage you to allow yourself to be honest and open with yourself as you answer the following questions:
● What words do you associate with “conflict?”
● How does your perception of conflict inform your behaviors in conflict?
● Do you have any emotions that come up as you are thinking about past conflicts?
● How do you view conflict based on what you witnessed and experienced in your family or past relationships?
● Do you notice yourself responding habitually in a similar manner every time disagreement arises?
● Why do you think you respond in the way you do?
● What expectations or fears do you have about your partner’s response to you during conflict?
● Do you find your typical reaction to conflict effective and beneficial to your relationship?
Redefining and challenging patterns can be difficult as you may feel a variety of emotions arising and trying to hold you back from taking such steps. Change, even the most desired one, is not easy as it feels like you are stepping into an unknown territory. Therapy can offer you space where you can take these steps at your own pace with the support of the therapist by your side. To find out more information about my services, please contact me directly at (954) 228-5580 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would be honored to walk alongside you! Feel free to reach out to schedule a FREE 30 minute phone consultation.
Tetiana Sukach, PhD
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
Eating Disorders, Couples and Family Therapy
I specialize in working with clients who are dealing with body image concerns, disordered eating, and eating disorders. I also work with clients struggling with a variety of other issues such as trauma, grief and loss, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. I am passionate about helping couples and families navigate challenging relational dynamics, conflict, trauma, and life transitions.
Sessions available also in Ukrainian and Russian