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Now Reading: Should We Break Up Because We’re Fighting?

Should We Break Up Because We’re Fighting?

At one point in our relationship, Renée and I fought multiple times a week. We fought on date nights, at public events, and even after church on Sundays. On Tuesday, we’d fight about a miscommunication, On Thursday, it would be some disagreement, and on Sunday, it might be an unintentionally hurtful remark that had been made.

I love an organised calendar and after a couple of weeks of this, I was contemplating blocking out an extra 30 minutes whenever we spent time together specifically for conflict.

The frequency of the conflict was exhausting. Even though I loved Renée and didn’t want our relationship to end, I remember reaching the point where I asked myself, “Should we break up because we’re fighting?”

Maybe you’re in a relationship where you’re asking yourself that same question. If you are, don’t freak out or lose hope just yet. Before you know the right answer, there are two other questions to answer first.

WHAT TYPE OF CONFLICT IS IT?

Mark Manson points out that relationship conflict can typically be broken down into two categories: conflicts of preferences and conflicts of values.

Conflicts of preferences are exactly that – differences in the things you prefer. One of you might prefer Italian food, while the other is all about Taco Tuesday. One of you might listen to soothing sonatas of Vivaldi, while the other prefers the vivacious verses  of Kanye West.

Too many of these conflicts can add up to real incompatibility, but having a few is perfectly normal. I’d even argue it’s a good thing. As Manson points out, if someone doesn’t share your preference but still wants to be with you, it shows that they’re with you for who you are and not what you do together.

A conflict of values, on the other hand, is a difference in your core values and beliefs. These include things like faith, morals, whether you want kids and how you’ll raise them, career, lifestyle aspirations, and so on.

Should you break up because of a conflict in values? Probably yes.

If the two of you are fighting about something that goes to the core of who you are, then it’s going to be nearly impossible to have a healthy, long-term relationship. You’re not going to change, and you shouldn’t expect your significant other to either.

There is a third type of conflict that Manson doesn’t mention; what I’ll call ‘conflicts of being a jerk.’ These are the conflicts that arise when one of you has had a hard day, you’re tired/upset/angry, and well, you’re being a jerk.

Like conflicts of preference, there is a question of quantity here. If ‘conflicts of being a jerk’ are happening all the time, it probably points to a bigger problem with one or both of you, and it might be good cause to break up.

But a few of these conflicts from time-to-time is totally normal. If the jerk is able to recognise that they were being a jerk, they’re sorry for being a jerk, and they commit to being less of a jerk next time, you’re probably all good.

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IS GOOD CONFLICT RESOLUTION TAKING PLACE?

The important thing to recognise is that conflict, especially conflict of preferences, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Human beings are amazing creatures, each with our own perspective, our own likes and dislikes, and our own unique something that we each bring to the world. Occasionally, this can lead to us getting irrationally mad with each other.

A certain level of conflict is unavoidable because of our differences. But when handled the right way, conflict can make your relationship stronger. It can deepen your understanding of each other and be an opportunity for growth.

Whether or not conflict has this beneficial impact on your relationship often comes down to whether bad conflict resolution or good conflict resolution is taking place. Let me give you a checklist for your own relationship:

  • Bad conflict resolution takes everything personally. Good conflict resolution recognises that the source of a conflict is usually unintentional and/or the result of misunderstanding.
  • Bad conflict resolution avoids the issue or addresses it in a way that doesn’t leave the parties feeling at peace. Good conflict resolution perseveres until both parties feel that the issue is resolved.
  • Bad conflict resolution breaks down into name calling and personal attacks. Good conflict resolution focuses on addressing the issue, not attacking the person.
  • Bad conflict resolution is selfish. It’s all about me, my personal grievance, me getting my say. Good conflict resolution clearly communicates what you’re upset about, but it also seeks to understand where the other person is coming from.
  • Bad conflict resolution just addresses what is happening on the surface. It focuses on the small comment, the little slight, the fact your partner is being a jerk for “no reason.” Good conflict resolution digs deeper to address the real issue.
  • Bad conflict resolution always addresses things in the heat of the moment (usually poorly). Good conflict resolution takes a break to cool off when emotions run high, and it only returns to the issue when both parties are in a good frame of mind.
  • Bad conflict resolution drags multiple issues into the same conflict and tries to deal with them all at once. Good conflict resolution addresses one issue at a time. It refuses to move on to something else until that issue is resolved.
  • Bad conflict resolution generalises and exaggerates, emphasising that person at fault always does this or never does that. Good conflict resolution addresses specific instances of an issue.
  • Bad conflict resolution is passive aggressive. Good conflict resolution openly and honestly addresses an issue.
  • Bad conflict resolution tries to “win.” Good conflict resolution tries to come up with a resolution you’re both onboard with, so the relationship wins.
  • Bad conflict resolution doesn’t apologise. Good conflict resolution does.
  • Bad conflict resolution doesn’t forgive the other person. It holds on to the grievance and might even use it as ammunition in another conflict further down the track. Good conflict resolution forgives and let’s go.

This checklist isn’t meant to be a quiz where if you score 5 examples of bad conflict resolution or higher, you need to break up. The big question here isn’t how badly did you score, it’s how committed are you and your partner to getting better at conflict resolution?

The important thing to remember is that conflict resolution is a skill that can be learned.

Recognise where you’re going wrong as a couple and commit to getting better in those areas. Every time there’s conflict, try to be conscious of not falling into those same negative patterns. When the conflict is over, reflect back on how well you navigated it.

CONCLUSION

A relationship fraught with conflict is a tough place to be. Know that I’ve been there, I understand the exhaustion, and my heart goes out to you.

If that’s where you are, it’s time to take an honest look at your relationship. Does the conflict go to your core values? Is there a lack of commitment to healthy conflict resolution? If the answer to either in yes, the best thing for you both is going to be to break up.

But if these aren’t conflicts of values, then the real question isn’t ‘Should we break up?’, it’s ‘Are you both committed to getting better at conflict resolution?’ If the answer is yes, then don’t lose hope!

Three years into our relationship, things have improved significantly for Renée and me. We’ve prioritised getting better at conflict resolution and as a result, we fight less often, get through conflict more quickly, and we don’t feel anywhere near as negative about the presence of conflict in our relationship.

Healthy conflict resolution is something you’ll spend your entire life getting better at. But be assured that you can get better at it. Every step you take in that direction is a step towards a happier and healthier relationship.

What do you think of my conflict resolution checklist? Are there any differences between good and bad conflict resolution that you would add? Let me know in the comments section!



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