Boyfriend and I coming to crossroads: conflict and pursue/withdraw
November 19, 2012 6:44 AM Subscribe
How to deal with incompatible conflict styles? My boyfriend avoids and I try to confront/face things. He hates to talk about it. I hate to leave it unaddressed. It's straining the relationship.
posted by hungry hippo to Human Relations (44 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend is very conflict averse. I don't like conflict but I realize you won't always agree in relationships and won't always understand what someone needs from you. So when that happens, you talk about it. No yelling, name-calling, criticizing. But I think even when I approach with "fair fighting" ideas, my boyfriend experiences me as critical because he seems to hear "you are failing me". He gets flooded and disappears (literally or emotionally). The sense of disconnection makes everything worse. It takes so much willpower not to chase him and try to work it out, and sometimes I fail and chase anyway (not to fight but to try to reconnect).
It's to the point where he's said my conflict style (to be open and honest about issues, and seek reassurance sometimes) gives him doubts about us working. I didn't tell him this yet, but his style also gives me doubts. I don't know how I can have a mindful approach to conflict and apply it effectively with someone who shuts down every time.
I have trouble with the ambiguity of him having doubts, so my first thought when he said it was to end the relationship but that isn't mature. So now I'm thinking of asking for a deadline for him to decide whether he believes my need to discuss things is a dealbreaker.
We're trying to hear each other. But we've been dating six months and I am worried that we're coming to an impasse. This has led to me adjusting my communication, since he can only seem to handle negative feedback when I deliver it cheerfully or use positive reinforcement (he's also a very passive person). He seems to recognize that his conflict style is bad for relationships, and said on his own he wants to try and change it.
The worst thing for me, is trying to leave him alone when he withdraws. Because it makes me physically ill. He is often not open to communication of any sort at that time - but because he is also passive, it isn't often that he will reach out when he is over it, so I'm left trying to guess when I can reconnect.
We work really really well together when things are good. I think he is hoping for a relationship where there is never negativity. And he seems independent enough that he is willing to sacrifice relationship altogether if it "drags him down" at all.
OTOH he seems to do okay disagreeing when my negative feelings make sense to him and he figured out on his own that I would be upset. The problem is when my reactions surprise him and when he thinks they don't make sense.
Bottom line: he is losing interest and we are both having serious doubts. I don't know what to do. I'm supposed to meet his family and I'm worried this is a bad idea now. He's said he still wants it - even though he has some doubts now. WTH. I don't know how to act around him now. My heart hurts. I wish I knew what to do.
How do you deal with conflict in a relationship when the person doesn't want to talk about it?