‘Have I gone mad?’ You think to yourself. Or is your partner avoiding conflict?
Every time you bring up something that upsets you, your spouse either says that there isn’t a problem or that there’s nothing to talk about.
Is it true? Are you making a big deal out of nothing? Are your concerns about your relationship legit?
Here’s the thing: how you feel is important. You aren’t going crazy.
Even if your partner doesn’t see the problem, it’s still worthy of discussion if something bothers you. Respect yourself and your gut feeling because your hunch could save your relationship in the long-run.
So how do you deal with a spouse who avoids conflict? What can you do if your concerns have been brushed off? Read on to find out how you and your partner can get on the same page and work through your conflicts together.
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15 Signs That Your Spouse Is Avoiding Conflict
If you’re unsure whether your partner is avoiding conflict or not,here are 15 signs to look out for:
1. Ignores you
Your spouse can avoid conflict through ignoring you or the topic. Some ways include:
- Avoid eye contact
- Start doing some random task when you want to discuss a sensitive topic
- Just walk away without any explanation
- Pretend that they don’t hear you by ignoring you when you talk
- Pretend that you just stop existing in their world and behave like you’re not even there anymore
- Don’t answer questions when you ask them
- Cut you off by talking about something else
Jokes are a great way to bring lightness into a conversation. But this can be used as a tactic to:
- Divert from the topic at hand
- Make fun of you
- Downplay the situation
If humour is used in this way, it’s harmful and doesn’t allow the conversation to resolve anything.
3. Passive aggressive behavior
Since your partner doesn’t want to have an overt conflict, they can punish you through passive-aggressive behavior like:
- Forgetting things that are important to you
- Dismissing your points completely
- Refusing to take any responsibility
- Blaming you for the relationship problems
- Interrupting you so you can’t get your point across
- Making excuses to leave the conversation
- Making excuses about what has happened without changing anything
- Becoming defensive
Be aware that any of these signs by themselves might not be a clear indicator that your spouse is avoiding conflict with you. But if you have multiple behaviors happening, you might have a conflict-avoidant partner.
You’re probably asking yourself now, why would your partner behave this way? Read on to find out.
Why’s Your Partner Avoiding Conflict?
Your partner isn’t evil…. Most likely.
Their behavior is simply something they’ve learned. We’re not born conflict-avoidant. So what’s happening for your husband that his only solution is to avoid conflict with you?
The only reason people avoid conflicts is FEAR.
Fear of being:
- Not accepted
The list goes on and on. We can have all kinds of fears. According to Psychology Today, you’re more likely to be conflict-avoidant if you:
- Had aggressive siblings or peers
- Bullying parents
- An absent caretaker
Your partner is avoiding conflict with you because they don’t know any better. They most likely don’t have a very healthy relationship to their feelings either which makes it worse. When conflict arises, your spouse is emotionally catapulted back to when they weren’t safe. Rather than fighting you, they choose to avoid the conflict altogether to stay safe. Knowing this will help you be more compassionate towards your partner.
But why’s your spouse’s conflict avoidance bad for you? If it was all about your partner, you wouldn’t be reading this article. There’s always something we can learn and do ourselves…
Let’s do a mind-experiment:
If you were completely at ease and feeling great but your partner was still avoiding conflict, what would that change for you?
For most people the issues are with their emotions. ‘I don’t feel good and you’re responsible for that so you have to change.’ While it’s true that we impact each other, our emotions are our responsibility, not our partners.
In order to create an Exceptional Relationship we have to take ownership of our lives and our feelings. Only then do we get to create what we truly want. If we just address our partner’s behavior, we don’t get to resolve our own blind-spots. That’s why it’s so important to look to yourself first and then your partner. What can you do practically speaking?
Answer the following questions:
- What do I experience when they avoid conflict?
- What do I feel when conflict is avoided?
For some people, they feel abandoned, worthless, or hurt when their partner is avoiding issues that are important to them. If we believe that what our partner says and does, reflects our worth, we’re in trouble.
Why is that?
Because what our partner says and does is totally dependent on their own experienced reality. The same goes for you. If you stop seeing your partner as the source of your feelings of abandonment, what are you going to do?
Suddenly the problem can’t be solved by trying to get your partner to change. The only way forward is to face your emotions and to embrace yourself and what you’re experiencing. Doing that is the foundation for an Exceptional Relationship and the end to endless drama in the relationship!
Do you have the courage to face yourself? If not, isn’t it funny how you thought your partner was being avoidant while in reality you’re avoidant of yourself and your emotions? If you want to create real and lasting change in your life and your relationships, facing all of you is the way forward.
It’s so worth it. Why?
Because you then get to live a life that’s free of so many insecurities and fears. Instead you get to be 100% yourself and love it. Not only that, you get to meet your partner just as they are without having to try to change each other. Isn’t that why we’re in a relationship? So that we can be our true selves and feel accepted and loved for who we really are?
That’s the end-destination of this section. We’re creating the skills and emotional resilience to face any challenges. No matter if the hurdle is within ourselves, our relationships or our life in general, we’ll know how to address it with courage and solve any issues that we come across.
What To Do To Overcome Conflict Avoidance
Didn’t we just say that you have to face yourself and not try to change your partner? Yes.
But an Exceptional Relationship isn’t only built on you and your acceptance of yourself. That’s one aspect. The other aspect is your partner.
As long as we protect our insecurities, they’ll dictate how we live life.– Jachym Jerie
Your partner’s conflict avoidance is rooted in fear and insecurities. To not address the issue is to let fear run your relationship. We don’t recommend that. Instead, it’s time to reveal how you can fix the relationship by choosing love.
How to Address an Issue
When Natasha and I first met, Natasha was a chronic conflict-avoider. I had to do an archaeological dig to find out what was going on. It would take hours and days to find out what she was feeling and why she was upset.However, it was worth it. Through my persistence, non-judgment, and openness Natasha was much more able to open up to me and realize that it’s safe to do so. If you want to help your partner see that communicating their feelings is safe, here’s a helpful guide:
Instead you want to be:
- Persistent without being pushy
- Willing to back off to give your partner space and come back to it later
How can you be all of the above? It’s simple but not necessarily easy: face yourself first.
Yes. That’s it!
I know, we’ve beaten the point to death. But it’s crucial that you get this. If your partner starts opening up and you get irritated, angry, and start criticizing them, you’re simply repeating their past. Instead, you want to make your partner feel heard. To do that, you have to take care of yourself first before you’re able to hold the space for your partner.
Starting the conversation with your spouse is the first step. What if there’s a way to minimize unnecessary conflict and fights in your relationship? Read on to find out what maintains a healthy and harmonious marriage in the first place. We’ve got the tools to set you and your partner up for long-term success.
How to Address Conflict Avoidance With Your Partner
Besides addressing issues as they arise, it’s crucial to talk to your partner about conflict in general. The longer you let conflicts build up, the higher the chance for resentment and misunderstandings. We recommend that you bring any disagreements up during one of your marriage talks.
Here’s how you can do it:
“I’ve noticed that whenever we’re facing a conflict in our relationship, you seem to shut down. I can’t talk to you anymore and I feel shut out from your world. I feel quite hurt when this happens. I’d really appreciate it if you could tell me what’s happening in those moments for you. I’m here for you and want to understand.”
Why does it work?
- You’re sharing an observation.
- You’re sharing how you’re experiencing the situation.
- You’re sharing your feelings.
- You’re asking your spouse to share what’s going on for them
If your partner tries to avoid the topic, go back to the qualities we’ve shared above. It might take some time and patience to really allow your partner to open up. Don’t push the subject too hard. It’s much easier to be gentle when you’re in a good space yourself. If your marriage isn’t in a good place, we suggest not to address this issue yet. Instead, it’s best to take on these helpful approaches to improve your communication so that you can dive into heavier and more important topics later on:
These resources will help put your marriage back on track so that you have a strong foundation. Regular healthy and honest communication allows you to address more serious issues like conflict avoidance or talking about unmet expectations.
How to Weed Out Conflict Avoidance From the Relationship
Once you and your partner have seen that conflict avoidance is a real problem, it’s time to pivot to a way of engaging that’s more helpful and respectful. How do you do that?
1. You make an agreement
You don’t get anywhere in a relationship if you’re not on the same page. In this case, you want to agree that you don’t want to keep this behavior in the marriage because it’s destructive. Get excited! This is the beginning of more love and respect.
2. You commit to change
What kind of changes are you going to implement? Will your partner let you know that he’s getting defensive and wants to withdraw? Will you be able to tell your partner in a non-aggressive way that you feel he’s shutting you out?
Whatever the change you decide on, make sure it’s clear and that you’re both committed to it. You’re not helpless to the situation. You’ve repeated it enough times in the past that you can foresee what will happen. Implement all the tools that we have shared so far in this article to see beyond the drama.
Now it’s time to be real. When the behavioral pattern of avoidance shows up, it needs to be addressed. Be patient and compassionate with each other because you’re learning something new while healing old wounds. Show your support to one another! Stay on the same team as you figure it out together. When in doubt, choose love and slow down to solve the problem.
4. Positive Reinforcement
When the desired behavior is changing and you’re starting to communicate through a conflict, make sure you let your partner know. You want to show them that you’re appreciating how things are shifting. Don’t wait for big changes to connect to gratitude; start small and it’ll help the process.
It’s equally important that your partner gets to experience how much better this new way of engaging is. Maybe it feels more freeing to not have to shut down. Maybe your spouse can stay connected to you and the love he/she has for you even when conflicts occur. The more you both see how much you can gain by ditching this old behavior the better. You’ll be internally motivated to grow your relationship in a more healthy and loving direction.
You either nurture your fears and insecurities or you nurture love and empowerment.- Natasha & Jachym Jerie
As you implement, you’ll notice that some things are working while others aren’t. Keep the communication channels open and find your way that works for you as a couple. There’s nothing you gain when you try to force the change. Celebrate the progress that you have made and reassess what you’d like to have more of. Your relationship is malleable and you’re the creator of it.
As an ex-conflict-avoider, I know how frustrating it can be for both you and your partner to get stuck on a problem. Communication breaks down in the relationship while the other person is left to figure things out on their own. This doesn’t have to go on forever.
I want to tell you from first hand experience that you can change this pattern. Love brought you together and love can survive this. All you need is persistent and dedicated effort to change this dysfunctional pattern.
I get it. For the one who’s avoiding conflict, being in a disagreement with someone can feel terrifying! But the fact is, you will have to work things out with your spouse. You’ve chosen to spend your life together and you will have to face it if you want to keep your relationship. And there is no better place to start using our 5-step process than in the safety of your most intimate relationships.
Let your home and your marriage be the most sacred space in your life. Weed out conflict avoidance and establish healthier and move loving ways to engage with one another. You can do this.
Start your journey to an Exceptional Relationship today. Revisit the section, how does conflict avoidance from your spouse impact you and get clarity for yourself. After that, start implementing the different tools and steps that we have outlined for you. Start the conversation and take the lead. A happy, long-lasting marriage is at your fingertips. It’s up to you to get started.
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