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Agreeing to Never Disagree and Other Relationship Killers

Withdrawal, Blaming, and Agreeing to Never Disagree

Conflict with a partner or someone we care about can feel intensely uncomfortable. To avoid the discomfort, we may engage defense mechanisms such as withdrawal, blaming, and agreeing to never disagree.


One way we protect ourselves from the discomfort of conflict is to withdraw from the person with whom we are experiencing conflict.

Withdrawal is a defense mechanism that is enacted in different ways.  For some, withdrawal from conflict looks like checking out or acting distracted. For others, withdrawal looks like shutting down emotionally and/or sometimes physically.  Stonewalling is another common form of withdrawal. However, of all the ways to enact withdrawal from conflict, the one seen most frequently is pretending we don't care.

Mindy shared that she cultivated a cool girl persona when she was in her at twenties.

"I pretended I didn't care about anything. If whoever was my partner at the time wanted to do things that crossed boundaries for me, I would be like,  'Yeah, sure. Doesn't bother me; nothing bothers me.' I always acted like I didn't need anything and was forever pretending something was fine when it wasn't even close to being fine with me."

When we pretend that something is fine when inside it bothers us or feels wrong, we feel like we are protecting ourselves because in doing so we avoid having a deeper conversation about why something bothers us or makes us feel fear or insecurity. 

For many of us, sharing we are bothered by something feels unsafe. We don't trust that the other will listen and not call us silly or ridiculous.

The opposite of withdrawal is to honestly share our discomfort. In doing so, we show we are willing to be vulnerable.  The willingness to open ourselves to being vulnerable is a precursor to connection and intimacy.


One way we protect ourselves from the discomfort of conflict is to blame the person with whom we are experiencing conflict.

Blaming is another defense mechanism to the discomfort of experiencing conflict.  When we blame the other person, we do not have to own our own part in creating the conflict. We can avoid accountability for the conflict by disassociating that part of ourselves engaged in the conflict . When we disassociate that part of ourselves engaged in the conflict we can avoid seeing the way we are impacting another. This blaming is a way to maintain non intimacy.

When we blame others and remain blind to our part in the pain or conflict, we avoid thinking about having hurt them and  our own accountability.

Never Disagreeing

Never disagreeing is another way of avoiding conflict using shame. Many of us grew up in families where there was an implicit rule or contract amongst family members that  we  never disagree so that there will never be family fights. Disagreeing in a family with this rule would feel too emotional and too intense and risk whatever we fear results from conflict.

In avoiding disagreement, we block intimacy with that other person. We have to stay toward the surface to avoid disagreeing. In our many layers we hold idiosyncrasies, preferences, emotions, and fears.  The fear of conflict suggests to us that these layers are not worth the risk of what exploring might uncover.  We may fear that if the other person learns more about our deeper selves, they will not love us or respect us.


Are you ready to place these defense mechanisms aside and gain knowledge and intimacy with someone you care about?

One of the greatest challenges in relationships, whether it's a partner, a parent, a friend, or a sibling, is to navigate conflicts when we're in the midst of a conflict.

To gain intimacy with others we practice observing our innermost layers and feelings. When we are not in the midst of conflict, we have time to choose whether or not and how we let somebody into that space with us. Next, we become curious about the inner world of the other person.

Because conflict is uncomfortable, it is really helpful to practice coming forward authentically when we are not in the midst of a deep conflict. One of the building blocks of a healthy relationship or healing a troubled relationship is to talk about how we will navigate conflict when we're not in the midst of a conflict.

Practice being curious about what you are feeling and about what the other person is feeling. When we practice observing our feelings and being open to hear about  the other's feelings when we are getting along, we build the muscle to meet conflict with curiosity for self and for other.

Curiosity makes space for us to cultivate compassion for ourselves and the other person. 

We will learn to use this compassion even in the midst of conflict. Compassion accompanies that ownership of our part in any conflict, it accompanies accountability for the parts of ourselves that are activated, and that might be acting out in some way. Instead of blaming, our goal becomes to learn something new about yourself and the other.

When you are not in conflict, practice narrating your inner experience to the other person. Tell them what you are experiencing in your inner world at that moment. 

Utilizing this framework when in conflict may sound like:

I see myself proving a point and needing to be right right now. I will name that.

"I feel like I want to shut down or fight with you. I want to put you down because I want to be right. I want you to believe I am right."

Narrating your inner experience gives you time and space to deactivate.  It is hard to do when you are activated or afraid.  The integration of these steps require practice. Working through conflict with someone who is important to you can be an evolving journey.


Two Step

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