Conflict energizes any situation and this energy is used either constructively or destructively.
There are several reasons why people in shy away from an open conflict:
1. It feels embarrassing for the people involved. Conflict makes people feel uncomfortable.
2. It hurts people’s feelings.
3. It can ruin relationships.
4. It prevents people from effectively working together.
5. “It can make matters worse.”
While it is true that conflict can, undoubtedly, do all these things, it can also help in personal growth and aid in the development of a positive relationship between two people. Fact is, there are relationships that thrive in this kind of environment, deviant as it may seem. Let us explore the facts why there are couples who keep a relationship that thrives on conflict.
In the Chinese culture, the word crisis has two meanings: one denotes “danger” and the other signifies “opportunity.”
Conflict energizes any situation and this energy is used either constructively or destructively. In a relationship where two people incessantly fight, there is an emotional involvement, no matter how perverse it may be. In an overly diplomatic relationship, there is no energy, only apathy. The distance between love and hate is considerable shorter than that between love and indifference. Edward Albee in his play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? describes a relationship which, however monstrous it appears to others and to themselves, pulses with energy. The characters are always involved with each other—never indifferent. The question which they have never resolved is how to use this tremendous personal energy without destroying each other.
Some couples who feel that their incessant fighting keeps their relationship strong must be warned though, that their boxing or debate match should not supersede their physical and emotional loving moments, or else the relationship is headed for doom. In these situations, the tendency to run away from conflict suffers an equally ironical twist and people feel self confident in the face of aggression and uncertain in the presence of harmony.
What makes love and hate related? Psychotherapists, marriage counselors, and trainers of sensitivity and encounter groups commonly encounter people who, figuratively speaking, spit venom at their partners, and yet, at the end of it all they are left with a feeling of love for each other, not hate. According to Rollo May, an existential psychologist who authored the book Love and Will, “The positive cannot come out until the negative does also. This is why, in analysis, the negative is analyzed with the hope…that the positive will then be able to come out into its own.”
If a person feels aggressive toward his partner and he suppresses that aggression, then his love for that person may be suppressed also – another example of how unspoken conflict can strangle love.
Use Conflict Constructively
Looking at two extreme types of relationships; the apathetic relationship can still be regenerated but emotions have first to be reignited; while on the opposite end, the aggressively conflicting couple needs to learn how to control the fire that is already there so that it does not consume the couple in its ferocity. This is not to say that a relationship without conflict is a dead thing, only that where conflict exists it might be used to make the relationship stronger and more satisfying. Because there are two sides in every situation, there should still be balance in everything—relationships included.