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How to Overcome Fear of Conflict With Your Partner

by Katrina Miller, studioD

Avoidance of conflict is a major predictor of divorce, according to the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. It is a style of coping that strives to evade stress or deal with it indirectly. But this can amplify the fear of conflict so that the problem never gets resolved. It can lead to a buildup of negative feelings about yourself or the other person. To overcome the fear of conflict, you must work out problems instead of pushing them away.

Learn to accept conflict, even if you are fearful of it. Commit yourself to roll with the emotionally hard times. You will be more likely to bring up a problem as it occurs. You also will be more prepared to listen and respond when your partner brings up conflict.

Talk to your partner to set ground rules for resolving conflicts. Knowing that you and your partner understand what each of you needs to feel safe in discussions about a conflict can prepare you for disagreements. You both will be more willing to bring up issues that need to be resolved.

Keep discussions about conflict constructive. Constructive communication is about communicating ideas and solving problems, rather than angrily trying to hurt the other person's feelings. Experience at using constructive communication can assure both of you that disagreements will not involve personal attacks.

Focus on understanding your partner, rather than feeling the need to agree with his point of view. The need to agree may bring out behaviors that make conflict difficult to tolerate, such as blaming, crying and bringing up the past. Discussing the issue with the simple goal of understanding the other partner's point of view indicates that you face, rather than avoid, conflicts.

Keep your alternatives open. If you and your partner do not reach an agreement, there are other alternatives. One partner might make a concession, with the understanding that the other partner will make concessions in the future. You may agree to put this particular conflict on the shelf for a while. You may find that communication helps you find a better solution to the conflict than either of you had originally anticipated.


  • If your partner has also been avoiding conflict, you may need to drain the swamp before talking about your feelings. You can drain the swamp by listening attentively as your partner talks about the issues that have been building up over time. Say things that allow your partner to know that you heard what was said. Do not succumb to the temptation to defend yourself because that would only derail the conflict resolution process. When the emotional intensity winds down, ask your partner if he is ready for you to talk about what has been on your mind.

About the Author

Katrina Miller is a medical writer specializing in behavioral health. She has been published in "Family Perspectives" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." She has a doctoral degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.

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