Most people have negative reactions to conflict. We associate the word with fighting and arguing. So, most of us to some degree are conflict averse. That is, we try to avoid conflict when possible. It makes us uncomfortable. It creates unpleasant emotions, thoughts and situations.
So, we let conflict have negative effects in our lives. We avoid or cut out people and relationships from our lives because of some real or perceived conflict with them. We do this to friends and even family members. We even avoid people we don’t have a conflict with if there is some chance that it will involve someone that we do have a conflict with. This happens when a parent avoids his or her children simply because they cannot deal with the conflict with the other parent. There is some logic to this reaction: Avoid the person, avoid the conflict and thus avoid the unpleasantness of it all.
The problem is that losing the relationship with the other person is not a good solution to the conflict. First, a potentially rewarding relationship is lost. Second, avoidance is just stalling. Avoidance does not actually resolve the conflict, it just perpetuates it.
The good news is that conflict has an upside. When handled correctly, conflict presents a tremendous opportunity to repair and even strengthen relationships. Conflict often brings to light issues that need to be resolved. And conflict is a force that can propel us forward.
In fact, conflict is not a bad thing at all, it is neutral. Conflict is made a good or bad thing by how you respond to it. If you address it maturely and productively, then conflict is a catalyst for healing, personal growth and peace of mind. If you address is by avoidance, accusations, fighting and arguing, then it is a catalyst for depression, anxiety, violence and long term misery.
In family law matters, conflict is omnipresent. I have seen couples use that conflict to destroy their lives, children and finances. I have also seen clients use conflict to resolve longstanding grudges and set the stage for peaceful and happy futures. The difference between those clients was how they chose to deal with their conflicts. Alternative dispute resolutions processes such as Collaborative Divorce and mediation offer ways to turn conflict into a catalyst for positive changes in the lives of divorcing couples and their families.