Fighting in relationships may be a necessary evil, but that doesn't make it easy. Even if you know that the occasional argument between you and your boyfriend isn't the end of the world, it might feel that way, causing you to keep important feelings under wrap. Learning to conquer your fear of conflict is a process that requires both self-reflection and a gradual change of habits.
Reflect on the reasons why arguing can be healthy, valuable and necessary. Understand that no matter how compatible you two are, there will be times when you don't fully understand each other and times when that misunderstanding can lead to anger. You will build greater trust as well as greater understanding by working through your conflicts and by discovering that you can be angry around each other, yet remain devoted and treat each other fairly.
Examine your own past experiences to understand why you might have an aversion to conflict. Think about personal and family relationships that have been dysfunctional or where arguing has led to abusive or toxic behaviors and made you feel afraid to speak up. Alternately, look at family behaviors that may have taught you to be conflict-averse. Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., links an aversion to conflict with family emotional neglect. "If we grew up in a family that couldn't, or wouldn't, attach much value to our basic needs and wants, our natural impulses to assert ourselves became suppressed," Seltzer writes for PsychologyToday.com. Work on getting in touch with those impulses again.
Look for peaceful ways to resolve conflict, first. While it's not always possible to resolve conflicts without anger and argument, learning to resolve conflict peacefully will help prepare you for the idea that conflict needn't be feared. Express yourself openly if something in the relationship is bothering you, even if it's something small.
Let him see you get mad at something or someone other than him. The next time you're together and you feel some urge to get angry about something on the news, a friend, your job or any other matter outside your relationship, vent to him and express your anger. Learning that he can tolerate and support you when you're angry will help you overcome fear of what might happen if you're angry with him.
Make sure that you can deal with him being angry. Think about times when you've seen him get upset about something and how it made you feel. If you felt scared, reflect on whether that feeling was at all rational. Assuming it wasn't, recognize that this is probably a holdover from other negative experiences in your life. Understand that this feeling may come up again when he gets angry, but that you have the ability not to listen to it.
Address any fear of losing him over disappointment with you. Understand that if his love for you is so conditional that a single argument would be enough to jeopardize it, this relationship is not one worth having.
- Psychology Today: "Afraid to Rage: The Origins of Passive-Aggressive Behavior"
- Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage: How Healthy Conflict Can Take You to Deeper Levels of Intimacy; Dr. Greg Smalley.
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.
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