A family is composed of unique individuals with different personalities, ideas, opinions, and ways of doing things. It’s no wonder disagreements and conflicts arise from time to time, and most psychologists will tell you that they are a normal part of being a family and living together.
Arguments and misunderstandings are inevitable in families, but the ways members choose to handle these conflicts can make a huge difference in maintaining a happy relationship with each other. Families who choose to peacefully resolve conflict are likely to grow closer as they learn how to take each other’s feelings into consideration. Knowing how to better manage family conflict will promote growth and cohesion on the domestic front.
The Birth of Conflict in the Family
When two or more people with distinct personalities and ideas spend a lot of time together, you can expect some opposing thoughts to arise. This is part of the natural progression of any relationship. Comparing different viewpoints can be helpful for people to learn and grow, but only if they are presented in a non-threatening manner. Problems may arise when individuals get caught up in their egos and forget how to think rationally. If a conflict becomes a winner-takes-all battle, nobody wins.
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In many cases, family members argue about something other than the real issue at hand, which is a fear of losing control. For example, teenagers take advantage of everyday situations as battlegrounds to affirm their newfound independence. Parents react in horror and panic at the thought of losing control over their once submissive children. The result is the drawing of battle lines where persistent conflicts happen.
The same principle applies to other family relationships. The friction between mother and daughter-in-law is usually a fight for control over the son/husband; the struggle for dominance between husband and wife is unconsciously aimed at maintaining the level of control in their marriage; and siblings are always squabbling to control the others. As each of these relationships evolves, the control issues may be resolved peacefully in a way acceptable to the parties concerned. However, when conflicts are unresolved, the relationships may be destroyed.
The Damaging Effects of Unresolved Conflict
Persistent conflict can strain your lives, not just your relationships. Whether the issue is a minor one or a long-standing major dispute, it can compromise the level of trust, especially if no apologies are given and no other form of resolution is reached. The presence of conflict may spawn resentment in other family members and cause them to take sides.
When conflicts are not resolved, the negative feelings may build up under the surface. Even if members appear to have moved on and remain polite to each other, the pain and mistrust may still linger. At times, the effort to resolve conflicts may involve bringing up old hurts, which can backfire when the other party feels attacked anew. On the other hand, avoiding the issue can harbor further resentment and poison feelings.
Not surprisingly, chronic unresolved conflict is the leading cause of separation/divorce among couples. It is also associated with emotional insecurity in children. Youngsters with parents in high-conflict marriages are more likely to experience behavioral and academic problems, depression and other psychological issues, rejection, etc. On the other hand, parents who know how to handle conflict the healthy way are more likely to provide their children with good relationships and parental warmth.
Reaching Out for Help
Sometimes, family conflict can reach the point of affecting the members’ lives and their everyday functioning. This is a clear signal that some external support and a neutral perspective may be beneficial before the conflict damages the family permanently.
It is definitely time to get help when the following warning signs appear in either children or parents:
- Change in eating habits or sleeping patterns
- Unexplained tiredness
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Consistent physical pain
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Academic failure
- Promiscuous behavior
Although conflict cannot be completely removed from a family, counseling can provide the help needed to resolve conflicts the healthy way. Sometimes it takes a caring stranger with an impartial voice to clear the way for mutual understanding and harmonious relations in your family.
Where to Find Help
Resolving family conflict can be daunting considering the number of personalities involved. Often an approach called “family therapy” is needed to address the issues impacting the entire family and offer a solution beneficial to all. It is a treatment option that meets the needs of a family embroiled in conflict.
If your family is experiencing extended conflict that is negatively affecting your lives, the logical step is to see a counselor and learn to resolve it in a healthy way. At Carolina Counseling Services in Pittsboro, NC, one of the independently contracted counselors may be the right-fit professional to help you.
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