7 Astonishing Ways That Conflict Helps You Grow In Non-Monogamy
Is there anyone else out there who spent literal years doing everything possible to avoid conflict?
When I think back to certain instances, I cringe at the thought of abandoning or rejecting myself (and my needs) over and over again in order to not be abandoned or rejected by somebody else. Oh, the irony… *gives my inner child a little hug*.
It’s heartbreaking to contemplate the circumstances that lead people to believe that if they address certain challenges or issues within their relationships and cause conflict that they will be abandoned or rejected. Yet, it is something that many people internalize along the way, and thus bite their tongues, leaving grievances, hurts, needs, wants and desires unexpressed and, therefore, unattended to.
Authenticity is the foundation of ethical non-monogamy. It is a pillar of having healthy relationships in which we feel safe enough to be loved as our full selves. By avoiding conflict in certain relationships, we are denying certain truths of who we are and what we desire, and ultimately deny authenticity in those connections. We are denying the other person(s) the opportunity to make us feel more seen and loved, and are ultimately perpetuating that underlying belief that we are not worthy of being loved for who we are, or if we are our true selves we will be abandoned or rejected. Yes, I know, it goes deep!
READ MORE: 5 Polyamory Mistakes You Don’t Need To Make
When you avoid conflict, it is proven to have a negative impact on your relationship. A study conducted in 2021 examined conflict avoidance in LGBTQI+ couples during the pandemic found that people were more conflict avoidant during the pandemic, which led to lower levels of satisfaction in the relationship.
When you are ethically non-monogamous and navigating multiple relationships, it makes the need for truth and authenticity so much more important if you value your own time, energy and sanity! One thing I regrettably know for sure, is that if you continue to avoid conflict and don’t have the difficult conversations needed to sustain healthy relationships, resentment will build up like poison and most likely eat you from within. This, in turn, causes more conflict and the vicious cycle continues until the relationship itself is killed (Ouch, the truth hurts). So, if that’s not enough of a reason to lean into connection when conflict arises, here are 7 ways in which conflict can help you grow:
1: Conflict can open your eyes to new ideas & perspectives
When we are fixed in our ideas & perspectives, we limit our capacity to grow and learn. When we open the space to listen to someone whose ideals & perspectives are different to ours, we expand the possibilities of learning something new, or thinking about something in a different way. On the other hand, when you listen to someone else’s belief or experience, it might give you clarity on your stance with your own view/perspective and that’s OK too.
Remaining open in the face of conflict allows us to be fluid and flexible in our beliefs, and not grasp onto what we feel is “right” more than we should.
2: Conflict gives opportunities to identify and express your needs & desires
There are many reasons why conflict might arise within any form of relationship. If there is a recurring disagreement between you and a partner, lover, or friend (not to say these labels are mutually exclusive), it might be an opportunity to go within and investigate whether a certain unmet need or desire might be at the root of the friction.
If that is the case, you have the perfect opportunity to now express such need / desire to the other person, and explore whether it is something that they have the want or capacity to fulfill. The more we practice communicating our needs and desires, the more fulfilling our lives and relationships become. You are deserving of all of your wildest dreams and fantasies coming true!
3: Conflict teaches you about the people in your life
When conflict arises in a relationship, it is indicating that the people involved are somehow not on the same page about something, whether it be beliefs, values, tastes, boundaries, expectations or desires. It can be as simple as differing tastes and preferences for meal choices, or as stark as very different hard limits around certain sexual fantasies or desires.
As we lean into conflict with others, we learn about how they interact with conflict, how they communicate, their points of view and what their biggest triggers are. When we learn about the people we care about and how they respond to conflict, we become more predictable in our relationships so that others feel safe. Learning about those we love and their attachment styles/conflict tendencies will ultimately support in having difficult conversations in a more easy way.
4: Conflict teaches you how to listen
It isn’t easy to sit back, hold space and listen to someone we might be in conflict with, especially if it’s about a topic that is particularly triggering for us. Welcoming resolution when we are in disagreement with someone helps us to practice the art of active listening – listening for listening’s sake, rather than listening to respond.
When we are communicating about a heated topic, it’s natural for us to want to defend ourselves or our point of view. Yet quite often the magic is in just listening to the other person and truly hearing what they have to say. The root cause of the majority of conflict is someone not feeling, seen, heard, secure or loved. Learning how to truly listen is a great skill that will benefit all of your relationships and help you grow as a person.
5: Conflict gives opportunities to to practice compassion
On that note, when we practice actively listening and holding space for another, even when we might not agree with what they are saying, we get to practice compassion. Compassion by definition is “to recognise the suffering of others and then take action to help.” When you acknowledge that someone you love is suffering or having a difficult time with something that might be causing conflict in your dynamic, having empathy goes a long way to diffuse heightened emotions.
When we are triggered or agitated in conflict, coming back to our hearts with compassion, breathing it out, remembering that you love and care about this person helps to provide the space needed to co-regulate. You can then work on a resolution together, which is taking that action to support the other (and ultimately yourself).
6: Conflict can lead to solutions
It’s really taxing on so many levels when you keep facing the same challenges within a relationship that keep coming up. If you choose to explore such challenges with the person you are having them with, you have the opportunity to find solutions that work for you both. Even if the best solution to recurring conflict is to transition the relationship into a different form, a new solution is better than running around in the same circles whilst not being able to resolve recurring conflict.
Honoring when a relationship dynamic needs to change is a huge opportunity for growth which ensures that our relationships are aligned with what is best for our own personal wellbeing, as well as those in our polycule.
7: Conflict can deepen your relationships
Ultimately, being open to conflict arising in our relationships, and facing it head on rather than running away from it can play a huge role in our relationships becoming deeper and more authentic. When we feel safe enough to share our truth, even if it does not align with the truth of someone we love, we create space to be loved for exactly who we are. We do not need to have the same beliefs / interests / way of thinking as those we love, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Honesty is always the best policy, and having the courage to have the difficult conversations rather than shying away from them will always pay off in the long term. By committing to authenticity, truth and vulnerability your relationship will deepen to levels you couldn’t even have dreamt possible. We want that for you!
Do you have any conflict resolution tips for the #open community? What are some ways in which leaning into conflict has helped you grow as an individual and in your relationship? We would love to hear from you.