Fear of Conflict is Rooted in a Fear of Loss
By Frank Kermit
Are you too nice when it comes to relationships? Do you walk on eggshells because you do not want to upset your partner? Are you reluctant to enforce your boundaries with someone you care about? Are you afraid of the confrontations that would result if you communicated how you felt, even if you communicated in a compassionate and effective manner? Chances are you have a fear of conflict.
There are very few things more devastating to the potential for long-term relationship success than a fear of conflict. Supplicating to your partner, or anyone for that matter, when your boundaries are crossed will more than likely lead to certain consequences such as building resentment. In time, building resentment needs a release, and this is where the stereotype of the nice person going "postal" comes from. Eventually, all that resentment finally comes out in one full on explosion of emotion, and the people around that person, never saw the rage coming, because that person has always been so accommodating (read: nice) about things. As far as everyone else was concerned, there was never any issue to be worried about, because the person who is too nice, never identified the conflicts he or she was experiencing.
Furthermore, another side effect of a fear of conflict can be the bad habit of lying. Lies and lies and more lies, each one to help cover the last one, all in the name of trying to avoid a conflict. Not everyone who fears conflicts lies; however, some do. This is a very bad habit to be in. It gets especially bad when people convince themselves that they are lying to "spare the other person any anguish". Although the liars really do believe, and strongly convince themselves, they are lying for the good of others, the liars will only be able to break this repeating behavior pattern when they can admit they lie to help themselves avoid potential conflicts.
THIS is the reason that people who are too nice in relationships often find themselves not easily earning the trust of their lovers. Experience will teach many a partner to be wary of those people that come across as too nice, because new partners will be suspicious about when the next explosion of rage may hit. Caught in the crossfire are people who are very nice, but who are not afraid of conflict. The sad part is that real nice people tend to turn off high quality partners, and attract those people who are in the habit of taking advantage of nice people. Those actual nice people can sometimes feel a sense of frustration because they cannot understand why things continue to not work out in relationships.
At the root of fear of conflict is a fear of loss. It has nothing to do with the fear of losing an argument that the conflict might spark. It has to do with how a person will imagine they will be abandoned if they bring the conflict to light. Some people fear conflict because they are worried that having a conflict with someone they care about, might in fact, bring about the end of the relationship. Depending on what the conflict is, the cost of enforcing a boundary could very well be the relationship. In other cases, it is not the conflict that will end the relationship, but a person's inability to handle intense emotions that the conflict brings out. If the person with the conflict is not comfortable with intense emotions, they may bring up the conflict in the only way they know how, which is likely very un-calibrated and comes across as angry, and not a calm discussion.
Some people are reluctant to learning to accept conflicts as a part of life because they are afraid that it will cause them to see nothing but conflicts everywhere they look. I attempt to explain to people that conflicts do not just manifest out of thin air. Those conflicts were ALWAYS there and it is just that learning the ability to mange a fear of conflict, also gives the gift of developing a talent to spot conflicts that you previously did not read as conflict signals.
For example, part of learning to deal with a fear of conflict is to identify your deal breakers and boundaries. Once you know where your boundaries are, then you will see all those places where your boundaries are violated (thus seeing the signals of conflicts). Until you know yourself enough to be able to articulate your boundaries, you will be unable to manage your fear of conflict because you will not be able to properly put your finger on where the conflict actually exists.
The Irony is that you are much more likely to lose what you have if you do not allow for conflicts to surface. People who are too scared to talk it out because they are scared to lose a partner, inevitably end up in situations where they are unable to feel trust in their partners (or vice-versa) because of the silent resentment that slowly builds between them.
Resentment kills intimacy. If you have conflicts, you MUST communicate and work them out; otherwise, those conflicts will kill any potential that you would have originally had to make your relationships successful. To summarize, a relationship that cannot handle conflict is a relationship that is destined for doom.