Why Does Conflict Develop in Relationships?

Mar 27, 2024
an image of a woman worried about conflict in her relationship

At some point in our lives, we all experience conflict within our relationships, be it with a partner, friend, neighbor, or colleague. During these times, we might find ourselves in vocal arguments or enduring periods of silence. These experiences, often leading to hurt feelings, are typically unpleasant and uncomfortable. We often wonder: What just happened? Why does conflict develop? Will it ever be resolved? Am I looking at the end of this relationship?

Discomfort from conflict leads to repair — and then growth.

Despite the discomfort, conflict can play a role in our personal growth and allow us to develop emotional intelligence and emotional awareness, contributing to a healthy relationship. It pushes us beyond our comfort zones, offering an opportunity to reflect on our behavior patterns, and through the repair process, we can foster empathy and mutual respect for differing perspectives.

Consider this your compass for navigating the stormy seas of discord. Let's dive in.

Understanding the Origins: Why Does Conflict Develop?

In the realm of connections, conflict can sometimes feel like an unwelcome visitor, often blindsiding us and leaving us rattled. However, to truly grasp why conflict arises, it's important to acknowledge that they are an occasionally necessary part of interactions.

What does the field of psychology reveal about arguments?

an image of a couple having an argument

When we delve into psychology and years of research on behavior, we discover that conflict often emerges from clashes in needs, values, or interests. When two individuals bring their unique habits, beliefs, and emotional baggage to the stage, and these individual attributes align harmoniously, the relationship thrives.

However, when they collide, harmony quickly dissipates, and conflict takes the stage. This collision can often stem from needs differing communication styles or incompatible life goals, prompting us to question why conflicts develop and become an essential part of our interactions.

Moreover, conflict can also be a reflection of struggles projected onto our relationships. The rejection experienced in childhood may spark a fear of abandonment in adulthood. The high standards we hold for ourselves might extend towards our partner, creating friction. Viewing conflict through this lens reveals that its roots often run deeper than surface disagreements.

It's important to see the patterns in our behavior.

Understanding these patterns not only helps us make sense of why conflicts develop but also gives us the tools to manage conflict more effectively. By being aware of what triggers us, we can approach conflicts with empathy and understanding instead of reacting out of fear or anger. Active listening and recognizing body language are essential skills in this process.

This perspective sets us on a path towards transforming conflicts into opportunities for growth and better relationships. So, let's dig deeper and explore the dynamics of conflict and the potential benefits it can bring when handled skillfully.

Unraveling Why Conflicts Develop: Exploring the Depths of Human Behavior

an image of a couple symbolizing conflict developing

Have you ever paused to consider what lies beneath an argument or a bitter fallout? What stirs up these storms within us? To truly understand why conflicts develop, we need to delve into the workings of our minds.

Psychologists and researchers worldwide have dedicated hours to unraveling the origins of conflict. Their exploration reveals that conflicts in relationships often serve as expressions of our emotional landscape.

Why does conflict develop from fear?

The fears we carry, the insecurities that plague us, and even our unspoken expectations all play their part in shaping how we interact with others. When this interaction produces disharmony, conflicts arise as signals that something's amiss.

But fear not, for conflict is not always a dark omen spelling doom for relationships. In fact, quite the opposite is true. With an understanding and skillful navigation, it has the potential to become a catalyst for development and stronger bonds in relationships.

We all wear different colored glasses.

At the heart of comprehending why conflict arises lies the recognition that each person interprets situations differently, shaped by their history, beliefs, and emotions. Varied perspectives on an event can lead to misunderstandings, forming the core of conflicts. For instance, one partner's sincere feedback might be perceived as criticism by the other, triggering strong emotions and sparking conflict.

Furthermore, unresolved emotional wounds from the past often act as fuel for conflicts. The emotional baggage we carry can cloud our perception, causing us to react strongly in innocuous situations. A harmless comment may reawaken insecurities, igniting conflict within a relationship.

Avoidance isn't always the best strategy.

However, rather than avoiding these conflicts, it is crucial to understand their origins and handle conflict effectively. Viewing conflict through a lens of workplace conflict, personality conflict, or even experiencing conflict in different scenarios presents an opportunity to delve into issues that shape our behavioral patterns. It uncovers triggers buried within our subconsciousness while inviting exploration — a path that fosters emotional growth and deep self-awareness.

What are some tools we can use?

After exploring the emotional undercurrents that drive conflicts, it's equally important to look at the process and practical tools necessary for resolving conflict. This is where conflict resolution skills become vital.

In a typical conflict situation, especially in a workplace setting, team members may find themselves at odds due to differences in perspective or competing needs. It is here that active listening and communicating effectively play a pivotal role in managing and resolving disagreements. Each party involved brings their unique emotions and perspectives to the table, and it’s essential to acknowledge this diversity.

Recognizing the most common causes of conflicts — where fear has been triggered from money issue or misaligned goals — helps in developing a better understanding of the situation. Furthermore, being aware of one's own needs and those of the other party is crucial for finding a resolution that satisfies everyone involved.

Conflict resolution isn't just about finding a quick fix; it's about fostering an environment of mutual respect where new ideas can flourish and disagreements can lead to positive outcomes.

Real-Life Success Stories Illustrating the Impact of Conflict

Case Study 1: Adam and Jen's Experience

Adam and Jen, a couple married for 15 years, faced a crumbling relationship due to continuous conflict. They had no way to resolve conflict together and this affected the quality of their relationship. They contacted me to seek assistance in understanding why conflict occurs so often and what the root causes of their arguments was really about. Adam felt there must be more behind their emotional responses — and if they could unlock this, they would be able to resolve conflict at home.

I provided the couple with conflict resolution skills and strategies to enhance their communication skills. As a result, they no longer felt like a competitor with each other, now more of a team member. There was so much relief for them now.

Today, their relationship is stronger than ever, they now sit down and talk regularly without the same disagreement erupting. They have peace at home, and often lead by example for other couples in similar situations.

Case Study 2: Bella's Journey

Bella, a banking executive, encountered escalating conflicts in her workplace. She sought guidance from me as a psychotherapist to navigate her situation effectively. This intervention helped Bella gain an understanding of the underlying sources of conflict and equipped her with techniques for managing and resolving disputes.

As a result, Bella has earned respect within her team while significantly improving her leadership abilities. She now enjoys a healthier work environment, demonstrating the importance of conflict management strategies in the workplace.

Case Study 3: Navigating Financial Strain in Marriage

an image of a couple having a financial conflict

Tasha and Lisa, married for five years, found themselves in a continuous cycle of arguments over money. They both had differing financial backgrounds and spending habits. This meant their discussions about finances often escalated into heated disagreements. The strain was taking a toll on their relationship, causing distress in their current situation.

Recognizing the need for help, they reached out to me for guidance. The core issue was not just about money, but also about the feelings and insecurities each person associated with financial stability. This elevated both partner's emotional awareness and increased their capacity for empathy around this issue.

Through the sessions, it became evident that Tasha's approach to money was heavily influenced by her experience growing up in a financially unstable household. Lisa, on the other hand, viewed money as a means to enjoy life and often felt Tasha's attitude was overly restrictive. This clash of perspectives had led to a situation where one party felt controlled, and the other party felt insecure.

To resolve their financial conflicts, they practice active listening and creating a safe space for both of them to express their emotions.

It was hard at first, but they both developed a less judgmental attitude towards each other. They learned to communicate their needs and concerns more effectively, moving away from accusatory language. Together, we devised a budget that respected both their needs, ensuring financial decisions were made with mutual respect.

As they implemented these changes, Tasha and Lisa began to understand how their backgrounds influenced their attitudes towards money. This resolution brought them closer, allowing them to work as a team rather than opponents in their financial planning. Over time, they reported a significant decrease in conflicts over money, leading to a more harmonious and loving household.

These examples not only showcase the outcomes achieved but also highlight the emotional relief experienced by those involved when they gain insight into why conflicts arise and how to address them.

Implementing Solutions: Practical Steps to Understanding Conflict Origins

Taking a practical approach can prove helpful in comprehending and resolving conflicts. Here is a guide you can follow.

Step 1 - Acknowledge the Conflict

The initial step involves recognizing and acknowledging that there is indeed ongoing conflict. It's important to be honest with yourself about the current situation and the existence of disagreements.

Step 2 - Grasp the Underlying Issue

Disputes often stem from underlying causes. It's crucial to understand the root issues causing your conflict. This may involve considering the differences between parties or the unique emotions each person brings to the table.

Step 3 - Actively Listen

Listen to each other's perspective. Seek to understand their point of view and validate their emotions even if you may disagree. Active listening is a key component in this step, ensuring that each party feels heard and understood.

Step 4 - Express Your Opinions in a Calm Manner

Share your thoughts and feelings in an honest way, avoiding any blame or accusations. Use "I" statements to convey how you feel instead of using "you" statements that might come across as accusatory.

Step 5 - Focus on Finding Solutions

Rather than dwelling and ruminating anxiously on the problem, concentrate on identifying solutions. Encourage each other to contribute their ideas for resolutions. This is where new ideas and creative thinking can play a significant role in finding a resolution.

Step 6 - Achieve Resolution and Follow Up

Once a solution has been agreed upon, put it into action and ensure that all parties remain committed to it. Regularly check in to verify that the resolution is effective. This step is crucial for maintaining the well-being of all involved and preventing conflicts in the future.

These strategic steps are designed to help you understand the reasons behind conflicts and navigate them effectively. While they may pose challenges, with practice these steps can transform the way you manage and deal with conflicts.

Further Exploration: Dive Deeper into Understanding Conflict

To expand your knowledge of why conflicts arise consider exploring the resources.

  1. "Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall B. Rosenberg - This book offers insights into communicating compassionately during conflicts.

  2. "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury - This book provides strategies for managing and resolving conflicts.

  3. "Reducing Intergroup Conflict through Contact Theory" - A comprehensive research paper explores the application of contact theory in reducing conflicts between groups.

These resources provide insights into understanding the reasons behind conflicts expanding knowledge on the subject and offering techniques for addressing these issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does conflict develop?

Conflicts typically arise when there are differences in opinions, interests or beliefs that are not effectively addressed. Poor communication, unmet expectations or perceived threats can also trigger conflicts.

What is the primary cause of conflict?

The primary cause of conflict is often from fear. The fear could be over many issues — such as a fear of not being respected, feeling inferior or feeling powerless, also feeling inadequate is fear inducing or someone else viewing you as inadequate can leads to conflict. When individuals feel fear, conflict can arise as they try to protect themselves from this experience.

What are the general causes of conflict?

There are three causes of conflict:

1) Goals - When two parties have goals that clash with each other.

2) Differences in Beliefs and Values - Conflicts arising from variations in beliefs, values or norms among different groups.

3) Scarcity of Resources - When resources become limited competition for them can lead to conflicts.

Ready to take a step further?

Check out Fight Less, Love More by Lissy Abrahams, one of the online programs I created to provide you with tools to improve the quality of your relationships. Let's continue this journey of understanding and personal growth together. Enroll today!

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