- April 5, 2022
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We’ve all been there—that moment when we feel a conflict arising and our stomach starts to churn.
We may begin to feel anxious, defensive, or even angry. We might do anything to avoid that conflict. Conflict avoidance is very common in relationships.
This blog post will explore what conflict avoidance is, why people do it, and the consequences of doing so. We will also offer tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy way.
What is conflict avoidance, and why does it happen in relationships?
Conflict avoidance is the act of withdrawing from conflict or avoiding conflict altogether. People often do this because they are afraid of getting hurt, being rejected, or feeling uncomfortable. They may also do it to avoid a power struggle.
How can conflict avoidance manifest in a relationship?
Conflict avoidance can manifest in different ways. For example, some people might withdraw entirely from the conflict and refuse to discuss it. Others might try to change the topic or make peace without addressing the issue. They may also act passive-aggressive or resort to name-calling or insults.
Why do people avoid conflict?
People avoid conflict for many reasons. Some people are afraid of getting hurt or rejected. Others may be afraid of the conflict itself. They may see conflict as a negative experience and believe it will only lead to pain and drama.
How does conflict avoidance affect relationships?
Conflict avoidance can have several negative consequences in relationships. First, it can lead to resentment, frustration, and contempt. It can also cause communication to break down and lead to distance in the relationship.
Approach-avoidance conflict vs. fear of negative evaluation theories
There are two main theories behind conflict avoidance: approach-avoidance conflict and fear of negative evaluation.
Approach-avoidance conflict is when a person wants to avoid a conflict, but at the same time, they want to approach it. This type of conflict can often happen because people are afraid of both outcomes of the conflict: the pain of losing and the pain of winning.
Example of approach-avoidance conflict:
Jim and his wife are arguing about who will take the dog for a walk. Jim really doesn’t want to take the dog for a walk, but he doesn’t want his wife to be mad at him either. So he keeps trying to find a way to avoid taking the dog for a walk that won’t make his wife angry.
Fear of negative evaluation is when a person avoids conflict because they are afraid of being seen in a negative light. They may believe that they will be judged, criticized, or rejected if they engage in conflict.
Example of fear of negative evaluation:
Caroline is very conflict avoidant and always tries to avoid conflict with her husband. She does this because she is afraid of being seen in a negative light. She worries that her husband will judge her, criticize her, or reject her if she engages in conflict.
How do these theories relate to conflict avoidance?
Approach-avoidance conflict theory states that people often avoid conflict because they are afraid of both outcomes of the conflict: the pain of losing and the pain of winning. This type of theory is based on the idea that people fear negative evaluation.
Fear of negative evaluation theory states that people often avoid conflict because they are afraid of being seen in a negative light. This theory is based on the idea that people fear being judged, criticized, or rejected if they engage in conflict.
The consequences of conflict avoidance
The consequences of conflict avoidance can be very damaging to a relationship. When two people avoid conflict, they are not communicating their needs and desires to each other. This leads to resentment and frustration on both sides. The relationship becomes based on assumptions and expectations rather than communication. And can lead to a lot of conflict down the road.
It can also negatively affect physical intimacy in a relationship. Physical intimacy is an essential part of any relationship. When two people avoid conflict, it can often lead to a decrease in physical intimacy. This happens because when two people are not communicating, they are not connecting on a physical level either. Physical intimacy is about connection, and when there is no communication, there is no connection.
As you can see conflict avoidance negatively affects multiple areas of your relationship, but it can also affect your personal health. When people bottle up their feelings, it can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Suppressed emotions can also lead to physical problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.
How can you recognize if you or your partner are dealing with conflict avoidance?
Some key signs can help you identify if you are dealing with conflict avoidance in your relationship:
- You find yourself withdrawing from conflict when it arises
- You have a lot of unexpressed anger or resentment
- The relationship has developed on assumptions and expectations rather than communication
- You often feel frustrated or resentful towards your partner
- Your partner often withdraws from conflict or avoids conflict altogether.
- You don’t speak up for yourself
- You resort to trying to please the other person
- You excessively apologize
Tips for dealing with conflict in healthy ways
If you or your partner are conflict avoiders, here are some tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy way:
- Talk about conflict early and often. Don’t wait until things have blown up to start talking about them
- Be willing to hear the other person out. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk
- Stay calm, and don’t get defensive
- Be respectful of the other person, even if you disagree with them
- Try to find a solution that works for both of you
- Don’t resort to name-calling or insults
- If things get too heated, take a break and come back to the conflict later
Conflict avoidance is a prevalent issue in relationships. It can be damaging to the connection of a relationship if it is left unaddressed. By being aware of the signs of conflict avoidance and using these tips for dealing with conflict healthily, you can start to have healthier and more productive conversations with your partner.
The importance of communicating openly and honestly in your relationship
When you communicate openly and honestly with your partner, you are able to share your thoughts and feelings with them.
You begin to develop trust and intimacy in the relationship. By communicating openly, you can express your needs and desires to your partner, which can help avoid conflict in the future.
Communication is vital in any relationship. Therefore, it is essential if you are dealing with conflict avoidance. Open up communication with your partner. You will be able to resolve conflicts healthily and build a stronger relationship.
Need help with conflict avoidance in your relationship?
If you are struggling with conflict avoidance and want to learn how to communicate effectively with your partner, please seek professional help.
A therapist can help you and your partner learn healthy conflict resolution skills and help you develop a better understanding of yourself and your partner.
Schedule an appointment with a Makin Wellness counselor today if you’d like more information on conflict avoidance or other relationship issues.
Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC
All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness Research Team.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Yes in need of help for my relationship
Hi Rose, conflict avoidance in relationships can be a difficult thing to deal with. If it would help to talk to someone about how you feel, schedule an introductory call with one of our team members. We’re here to help.
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Why is avoiding conflict healthy for any relationship? ›
By avoiding conflict, you are not able to express your true feelings. You store up your frustrations and keep them to yourself. This can cause you to feel stressed and anxious. It can also have negative impacts on your overall health and well-being.What is conflict avoidance in simple terms? ›
Conflict avoidance is a person's method of reacting to conflict, which attempts to avoid directly confronting the issue at hand. Methods of doing this can include changing the subject, putting off a discussion until later, or simply not bringing up the subject of contention.What is an example of avoidance conflict style? ›
1. Simply Ignoring the Issue at Hand. A common form of conflict avoidance is to deny there is an issue at all. As an example, two colleagues might disagree regarding an approach to a particular problem.What are the risks of conflict avoidance? ›
"The negative side effects of conflict avoidance are often high turnover, a dysfunctional working environment, strained communication, loss of productivity and impaired teamwork," Hearn said.What is conflict avoidance in relationships? ›
Being conflict avoidant means exactly that: being afraid of possible disagreements at all costs. Aside from our work life, avoiding conflict can manifest in our romantic relationships, friendships, and even family dynamics.How does conflict avoidance affect a relationship? ›
Conflict avoidance can have several negative consequences in relationships. First, it can lead to resentment, frustration, and contempt. It can also cause communication to break down and lead to distance in the relationship.What is a real life example of avoidance avoidance conflict? ›
Avoidance-avoidance conflict is when a person has difficulty choosing between two unfavorable options. Examples of this include choosing between surgery or radiation treatments for cancer, or choosing between a lower salary at work or unemployment.What are the 5 conflict avoidance strategies? ›
Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed five conflict resolution strategies that people use to handle conflict, including avoiding, defeating, compromising, accommodating, and collaborating. This is based on the assumption that people choose how cooperative and how assertive to be in a conflict.How do you treat conflict avoidance? ›
identify your fears. reframe your thoughts on conflict. build positive communication skills. practice verbalizing your feelings.
Pros: Avoidance can be appropriate when you need more time to think about the conflict and how to best approach it. Cons: When the avoidance style is used by a teammate, it can lead others to believe that might lack concern about the issues creating conflict.
What do you call a person who avoids conflict? ›
If you are a pacifist, you avoid physical confrontations. The beliefs and actions of peacemakers can also be described as pacifist, as in someone whose pacifist beliefs lead him to take part in nonviolent protests against a war. Definitions of pacifist.What is a widely used form of conflict avoidance? ›
Some of the most common conflict avoidance approaches include: Effective management. Potential problems can be analysed and managed by proactively planning future work and raising issues of concern early. Ensuring clear contract documents.Is avoiding conflict a trauma response? ›
The 'fawn' response is an instinctual response associated with a need to avoid conflict and trauma via appeasing behaviors. For children, fawning behaviors can be a maladaptive survival or coping response which developed as a means of coping with a non-nurturing or abusive parent.How do you deal with conflict avoidant partners? ›
Remember, you've got to connect to correct so showing empathy and compassion if your partner is a conflict avoider is the best way to create a space where they'll start sharing what's real. In this same vein, you want to emphasize that you're a team; you're not going anywhere and you'll get through this together.What are the effects of conflict in relationships? ›
Conflict in relationships has been identifying as a significant stressor. It triggers strong emotions and can result in one person hurting another's feelings. Most often than not, disappointment and discomfort are associated with conflicts handled in an unhealthy manner.What are the main causes of conflict in relationships? ›
- Power And Control. Save. ...
- Selfishness. We often get so obsessed with our desires that we forget how our decisions affect others. ...
- Criticism. ...
- Lack Of Communication. ...
- High Expectations. ...
- Resentment. ...
- Finances. ...
- Household Responsibilities.
Identifying Avoidant Behaviors in Your Partner
Not saying “I love you” or other expressions of love. Deflecting conversations about further commitment, such as monogamy, engagement, or marriage. Dismissing or mocking a partner's attempts to be closer, or to engage on a deeper level.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety are especially likely to use avoidance to dodge triggers or potentially harmful environments. Others may practice the behavior because they struggle with their emotions in general.Where does avoidance behavior come from? ›
Avoidance is typically considered a maladaptive behavioral response to excessive fear and anxiety, leading to the maintenance of anxiety disorders. Exposure is a core element of cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders.What are the 3 C's for resolving a conflict? ›
Balancing the 3 C's: Communication, Conflict Resolution and Commitment.
How do you resolve conflict in a relationship? ›
- Establish boundaries. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, even during an argument. ...
- Find the real issue. Arguments tend to happen when one partner's wants or needs aren't being met. ...
- Agree to disagree. ...
- Compromise when possible. ...
- Consider it all.
- Define the problem. ...
- Come together and communicate. ...
- Establish relationships. ...
- Develop an action plan. ...
- Gain commitment. ...
- Provide feedback.
Avoiding. Avoiders deliberately ignore or withdraw from a conflict rather than face it. Avoiders do not seem to care about their issue or the issues of others. People who avoid the situation hope the problem will go away, resolve itself without their involvement or rely on others to take the responsibility.What are the disadvantages of avoiding conflict? ›
- Projects passive-aggressiveness or a lack of interest.
- Breeds resentment or tension which can negatively affect communication and working relationships.
- Inhibits innovation, collaboration, or creative problem-solving.
High conflict people (HCPs) have a pattern of high-conflict behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it.What trauma causes fawning? ›
What types of trauma cause the fawn response? The fawn response is most commonly associated with childhood trauma and complex trauma — types of trauma that arise from repeat events, such as abuse or childhood neglect — rather than single-event trauma, such as an accident.What does emotional avoidance look like? ›
Emotional avoidance is when a person avoids thoughts or feelings about a traumatic event. This type of avoidance is internal to the person; others around you may not know what you are avoiding and why.What triggers an avoidant partner? ›
Demands for time and attention
Since dismissive avoidants tend to value independence and focusing on themselves, focusing on others can be a considerable burden. They're likely to get triggered when their partner demands too much of their time and attention. They perceive the situation as follows: “I'm losing myself.”
Communicating with empathy, using “I” statements, and avoiding blaming and criticism are some of the ways to help avoidant partners feel safe enough to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as change their behaviors in time. “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.”How do you heal from an avoidant partner? ›
- 1 Recognize the attachment styles you both have.
- 2 Pay attention to how your body feels.
- 3 Resist taking the blame for your partner's behavior.
- 4 Stop seeing your partner for their “potential.”
- 5 Take time to grieve what you've lost.
What are 3 impacts that conflict can cause? ›
- Mental Health Concerns. ...
- Decrease in Productivity. ...
- Employee Turnover Impacts. ...
- Conflict Escalation and Violence. ...
- Inspire Creativity to Solve Problems. ...
- Share And Respect Opinions.
This can lead to mental health problems in people who are targeted and in others. Problems include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance misuse, and (rarely) precipitation of psychosis.How do conflict affect your daily life? ›
Conflict can lead to either breakdown in the relationship, the family, friendship, or work environment. Or it can lead to creative solutions and improved relationships. To help clarify each portion of this guide, scenarios are included to humanize the principles being discussed.What is a brief description of avoidance? ›
Listen to pronunciation. (uh-VOY-dunts) The act of staying away from people, places, and thoughts that may cause anxiety, pain, or unpleasant feelings.How do you explain avoidance? ›
Avoidance and escape refer to behaviors where people either do not enter a situation (avoidance) or leave situations after they have entered (escape). Distraction is considered to be a subtle form of avoidance behavior. Avoidance and escape are natural mechanisms for coping with many kinds of pain and trauma.What is avoidance and example? ›
Someone might avoid triggers such as people, places, and things that may incite uncomfortable feelings. Those dealing with social anxiety, for example, might avoid crowds of people or hanging out with a group of friends.Which is conflict avoiding behavior? ›
What is conflict avoidance behavior? Conflict avoidance, also known as complaint avoidance, is when a person avoids discussing issues with their partner to avoid confrontation or an argument. People may do this as a way to preserve harmony in the relationship.What is the root cause of avoidance? ›
Researchers suggest that there are early childhood experiences that contribute to avoidant behaviors and personality disorders. These are not necessarily causes but may increase the risk of developing AVPD. A major factor in early childhood that may shape personality and lead to AVPD is parental interaction.What is the root of avoidance? ›
late 14c., "action of emptying," from avoid + -ance. The sense of "action of dodging or shunning" is recorded from early 15c.; it also meant "action of making legally invalid" (1620s), and, of an office, etc., "becoming vacant" (mid-15c.).
The exact cause of avoidant personality disorder isn't known. However, it's believed that both genetics and environment play a role. It's also believed that avoidant personality disorder may be passed down in families through genes, but this hasn't yet been proven.
Why do people have avoidance issues? ›
Anxious people can be susceptible to avoidance coping because initially, it appears to be a way to avoid anxiety-provoking thoughts and situations. People who are prone to anxiety might have learned avoidance techniques early on and therefore might find it more difficult to learn proactive strategies.What are avoidant behavior examples? ›
When in social situations, a person with avoidant personality disorder may be afraid to speak up for fear of saying the wrong thing, blushing, stammering, or otherwise getting embarrassed. You may also spend a great deal of time anxiously studying those around you for signs of approval or rejection.What does avoidance behavior look like? ›
Avoidance behaviors include extreme ways to get out of specific activities that cause uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. These can be extracurricular activities, spending time with family members, going back to school, dates, or other social situations.What are avoidance behaviors? ›
Avoidance behaviors are any actions a person takes to escape from difficult thoughts and feelings. These behaviors can occur in many different ways and may include actions that a person does or does not do.What is a character trait for someone who avoids conflict? ›
Other traits Masini says are telling of conflict-avoidant people, that both influence their aversion of confrontation and result from it, include being passive and co-dependent, conforming to the status quo, and feeling uncomfortable under pressure.