Is happily ever after a myth or Can relationships ever be conflict free?

I’ve just been counselling my friend about her relationship over BBM. She loves her man, he loves her but they keep arguing over small things. They have had long conversations about ‘it’. They know it’s fundamentally a communications challenge. When they get angry they tend to go silent rather than talk about the issue straightaway. That is their default response to conflict.

We chatted about why she is currently angry with her partner. She acknowledges that its not a big deal but she wants him to apologise, and he hasn’t apologised yet. I point out that he may not be aware that she wants him to apologise. In his mind it may not be a big deal (in my mind the reason why she is upset with him is not a big deal), but that’s beside the point. I ask her what the root causes of their arguments are? Yes you may have plenty of small arguments but I feel that there is generally a root cause. I share an example from my most significant relationship. My partner and I had loads of small arguments but in retrospect (and at some point towards the end of the relationship) I realised the root cause of the conflict was that my partner essentially wanted a traditional partner. He insisted he didn’t but deep down he did. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to take his name. Or be the one to clean the kitchen. Or accept his point of view unquestioningly. THAT was the root cause of our conflict.

But this BBM conversation got me thinking. Can relationships be conflict free? Is it unrealistic of us to expect these fairytale like relationships that sail along smoothly? Is conflict a necessary part of being in a relationship? I’m one of those people who actually avoid conflict (contrary to what may be popular opinion) so the start of conflict in a relationship for me is usually a sign that I need to bail out. But is this just the downside of being in a relationship? What are your thoughts and experiences?

8 comments On Is happily ever after a myth or Can relationships ever be conflict free?

  • Thanks for discussion this important topic. Of course the answer is “no, relationships cannot be conflict free”. Recently I read a book with the interesting title “Mating in Captivity” by Ester Perell, it even suggests differences and distance are needed in a romantic relationship. I can really recommend the book as it opened my eyes to problems of harmony and likemindedness in a couple!

  • I agree with Kajsa. I think there will definitely be conflict in any relationship but it’s how the conflict is resolved by the two people involved that’ll determine whether the relationship will burn to ashes or rise above the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.

  • Conflict free is only to be found in utopia. Now if a small conflict has them not talking to each other, what about a major one, kill each other?! Waiting for an apology is silly in my opinion. He probably doesn’t even know what the fuss is about, or doesn’t even know he wronged you. Abeg, tell that man how you really feel. He is not God to read your mind. I’m siding with her man, me not know why you are angry.

  • I hate conflicts too. Brings lots of anxiety my way. Then you begin to ask yourself questions. Is she the right person? or are you the right partner? Why then waste each other’s time? Sometimes she is not wrong, and you ain’t wrong either. It’s just differences in views. I strongly believe if your views and opinions always bring conflict then it’s time you both looked for another partner, period!

  • A conflict free relationship? I’ve never seen one and I don’t believe they do exist. People are even angry with themselves sometimes, so how can they be in eternal perfect harmony with a person who they don’t even understand as well as they understand themselves?

    All the good relationships I’ve observed had conflicts. What made them good was that they had developed ways to deal with conflicts, instead of escalating them or dragging them on as grudges. — I don’t think this can work in a one-sided way, where one party completely submits to the other. Too asymmetric relationships lack reciprocation and reciprocation helps keeping oneself in check.

    You might ask: “Why is this written in the past tense? Shouldn’t good relationships be at least good enough to last”? Well, yes. However, the ones I know came to an end, in death.

  • I believe in a happily ever after with ample conflict until you find peace 😉 Every relationship including the one we have with our selves has conflict, and that’s a good thing as it’s where we can assess if we are being honest and if not, hopefully find a way to be eventually.
    What is important in a relationship between lovers is how the conflict looks. For me, shouting and throwing a fit is not something I can deal with because it’s not going anywhere. Conflict should be progressive.
    I agree there is always a root cause, and the sooner we address it in a relationship the more chance we can work it out.

  • @Kajsa – Thanks so much for the book reference

    @Ekuba – Thanks for being an active regular 🙂

    @ African Mami – Generally I’m with you on telling your partner why you are angry, yet its one of those easier said than done things…

    @Edward – This rings true for me in terms of how I tend to operate…but maybe its because we fantasise about these Utopian relationships…

    @NVit – Great point about developing ways to deal with conflict. Thanks for sharing

    @MsAfropolitan – You know! There is conflict, and there is full out war. True. We’ve got to know the difference.

  • There’s no such thing as a conflict free relationship, I agree with @MsAfropolitan conflict should be progressive, taking time to talk it out when tempers mellow helps in the growth of the relationship as it lets us understand our partners

    @Nana Darkoa here’s a book you’ll love to read if you haven’t already THE FEMALE BRAIN by Brizendine Louann

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