Conflict is something I have always run away from in the past. It frightens me, my imagination runs wild and conjures up endless possible outcomes from the downright ridiculous (the world will actually explode) to the not totally irrational, but in most cases equally ridiculous, the person I have the conflict with will physically hit me or scream at me if I say what’s on my mind. As such, I have spent the majority of my life quietly agreeing with the people closest to me, trying to avoid arguments.
This will come as a surprise to most people who know me. I am very vocal about a lot of important topics and will argue points regarding religion, feminism, equal rights and politics until I’m blue in the face. I remember offending many of my (possibly ex) friends as I told them they were absurd for not agreeing with the allowance of female fire-fighters. They posed the question: “Who would you rather rescue you, a man or a woman?” My response was reasonable, whoever had passed their training and was more qualified for the job. This is one of many examples of how confident and opinionated I make myself out to be, the mask I hide behind.
Matters of relevance and importance to my personal life, those are the conflicts I
hide hid from. Relationship conflicts, what money can be spent on, what to eat for dinner, who stays at home with the children and who goes to work, going out. Things which seem completely insignificant to most, I would be genuinely terrified of speaking up about. I would bury my feelings and oppositions to decisions made, all the while becoming resentful of the other party and destroying my sense of self worth and confidence.
Change occurred when I substituted the word “conflict” for “communication”. Communication is key to relationships, good and bad. Unfortunately, if you do not have a relationship based on honest and open communication from the start, by the time you realise its importance it’s often too late to save. There are too many resentments, too many insecurities and a major imbalance in the dynamics of the relationship. In the case of my relationship with my husband (from whom I am currently separated), we lacked basic communication skills and as mentioned above, I became completely resentful of him. We are now in a position where he wants to reconcile and make things work and I am struggling to get past every thought, feeling and action which negatively impacted on my mental health during our marriage. He is aware of this and I frequently talk to him and explain I am not in the same place as him regarding our relationship, however this is not something which comes naturally to me. Inside I am screaming “run away! Tell him a comforting lie rather than the inconvenient truth!” I’m sure this wouldn’t be the case if we had based our relationship on communication and (to steal an idea from a very good friend) held weekly relationship meetings to discuss any issues, resolve them and move forward.
I have made a promise to myself that I will never again act on my fear of speaking out and saying how I feel. I can’t promise myself I won’t be afraid in the first place, I am sure that will come with time. I am slowly learning that another person’s happiness is not more deserved or due than my own and that hiding from external conflict only creates inner turmoil, something which is much worse.