NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 3, 2022

How to Prevent Conflict Avoidance From Destroying Your Relationship

What is Conflict Avoidance?
Although most people experience arguments and conflicts as stressful and uncomfortable, people who are conflict avoidant find it especially intolerable. They will often go to great lengths to avoid or end an argument rather than remain in it to try to find a resolution.  This is called conflict avoidance.

Conflict Avoidance in a Relationship

Although conflict avoidance is common in many relationships, this phenomenon is especially frustrating for the other partner because problems in the relationship don't get resolved and this is what often brings people into couples therapy.

People who are conflict avoiders often have an avoidant attachment style (see my article: Understanding the Avoidant Attachment Style).

When a partner wants to talk about a problem in the relationship, the partner who wants to avoid conflict will typically act in one of the following ways to avoid dealing with the conflict or keep the argument from escalating:
  • Apologize quickly, possibly without understanding what they're apologizing about or if they are even feel sorry
  • Accommodate immediately, possibly without considering whether they really want to do it or can do it
  • Agree without much thought as to whether they actually agree because they just want the conflict to be over
  • Stonewall, which often means refusing to talk about the situation or walking out of the room to avoid the conflict (see my article: Are You a Stonewaller?)
What Causes Conflict Avoidance?
People who are conflict avoidant get so uncomfortable with arguments or conflicts that they find it emotionally intolerable (see my article: Understanding the Partner Who Withdraws Emotionally).

Externally they might appear to be calm or even indifferent, but someone who is conflict avoidant is usually experiencing a high degree of stress internally.

Conflict avoidance is often rooted in unresolved childhood trauma where arguments or family conflict was out of control.

Alternatively, the person who is conflict avoidant might have had some other traumatic incident that gets triggered whenever there is a current conflict.  This might have involved a prior relationship where there was rage or even violence.  Or it might be related to some other prior traumatic experience (see my article: How is Emotional Avoidance Related to Unresolved Trauma?).

Whatever the cause for conflict avoidance, this person will try to dodge conflict in whatever way they can.

What Are the Negative Consequences of Conflict Avoidance?
Conflicts avoidance, even mild cases of it, is a serious issue.

The Negative Consequences of Conflict Avoidance

Not only does the conflict remain unresolved, but anger and resentment festers and grows.

The ongoing stress of conflict avoidance affects not only the couple but also their children who can sense there are problems below the surface that aren't being dealt with by the couple.

Conflict avoidance can cause chronic stress which can result in stress-related health and mental health problems including:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive problems
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment
What to Do If You Are Conflict Avoidant
There are steps you can take if you are conflict avoidant, including:

Conflict avoidance is common.

People who are conflict avoidant often have prior unresolved trauma that gets triggered whenever there is an argument or conflict in their current relationship (see my article: How Unresolved Trauma Affects Your Ability to Be Emotionally Vulnerable in an Adult Relationship).

The long term consequences of conflict avoidance includes ongoing problems that remain unresolved, resentments that build up, chronic stress and stress-related health and mental health problems as well as a negative emotional impact on the couples' children.  

Get Help in Therapy to Salvage Your Relationship

A relationship where there is conflict avoidance can be salvaged in individual and couples therapy if the couple doesn't wait too long to get help and if they're willing to do the work on their relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.