Unaddressed Relationship Conflict and Confronting Anxiety

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The Unsafe Problem Lurking Underneath

In many close relationships the real conflict isn’t vocalized but simmers below the surface. We often like to think of vocalized conflict as the main problem to be solved but often that which people feel free to gripe about is actually a safe stand in for what they feel unfree to gripe about, the true unsafe problem lurking underneath. In these types of relationships conflict never gets resolved, it just bounces from one subject to the next because the true subject is never addressed.

The irony is that it’s the sensation of rising existential anxiety that compels people to turn away from addressing the real problem when it’s this very sensation of existential anxiety that should clue them in that this is the very area that demands attention and change if conflict is to be resolved.

Anxiety is a Powerful Deterrent

Many people don’t have a clear, concrete idea of what the consequences of addressing the real source of conflict might be. They never get that far because the anxiety itself acts as a powerful deterrent to further exploration. So at the barely conscious level they move away from the real, authentic material and towards something they feel safe bringing up as a problem.

Therefore the first step to solving deeper relationship conflict, the relationship conflict cued off by all those irrational emotional and psychological forces bouncing off of each other due to varying upbringings in families of origin and varying experiences of abuse, abandonment, disinterest, and familial expectations, is to recognize the existential anxiety and sit with it rather than run away from it.

The Underlying Conflict Must be Resolved

The true underlying conflict might be rational and reasonable, it might be irrational and unreasonable, but one way or another it needs to be recognized and addressed openly or the predicable outcome will be a relationship defined by conflict where the visible things both parties hem and haw over change over time but no real resolution is ever reached since the real problem is never put under the microscope.