The Conflict Style That May Be Hurting Your Relationship

If you are in a relationship, conflict is something that is inevitable. In fact, conflict is a good sign for you and your partner. If you are dating someone for a long period of time and there is no conflict, that is actually a sign of complacency and boredom. Conflict happens in a relationship because both people are trying to find a common ground with each other. For a conflict to occur, each person knows that the relationship they have is worth time and energy. Still, arguments bring stress and unresolved feelings. According to YouGovAmerica, "Nearly half of people in serious relationships say they feel like they get into the same arguments over and over again, and about one in five say their arguments sometimes last 24 hours or more."


If you are finding yourself in more conflicts than you'd prefer, it may be because your conflict style is the opposite of your partner's. One pairing of styles in particular brings about many conflicts. By knowing the style in which you prefer to settle conflicts and the style of your partner, it may help you to come to an understanding sooner. 

Pursuer-Withdrawer Relationship

There are two conflict styles that can keep an argument going longer than needed. A pursuer and withdrawer conflict style match-up can be tricky. If you are the pursuer in a relationship, you are more than likely comfortable addressing a conflict head-on. You could also be the pursuer because of the way you were treated in the past. John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist and creator of the Attachment Styles explains that the way we behave in our adult relationships is majorly affected by how we were loved when we were little (via Good Therapy). A secure attachment style person will need less reassurance that a relationship is going well than an anxious one. Pursuers are often people who suffer from an anxious attachment style, and they are constantly craving the reassurance that you love them (via Bocaraton Couples Therapy).


If you are a withdrawer, your process is to leave a conflict or move away from a partner to protect the relationship. A withdrawer feels more comfortable working out emotions and issues in the relationship alone and in quiet rather than facing them right away says All Relationship Matters. Avoiding a partner, leaving the room of an argument, or completely ignoring a disagreement the night before are all ways withdrawers try to steer clear from conflict. If a pursuer and a withdrawer are in a relationship, it can lead to a cycle of conflict that is hard to resolve.

How to find understanding

Knowing your conflict style is a great first step to finding a little more peace with your significant other. According to Pepperdine Boone Center, there are many approaches you can take to meet in the middle with your partner. Withdrawers can really improve the way they approach conflict by thinking about how you give yourself the space that you need while helping your partner and their need to confront a problem. In turn, pursuers need to understand the withdrawer's desire for space. Oftentimes it's the pursuer who will be motivated to make the biggest change because they are more active in their conflict style (via RWA Psychology).


Keeping a withdrawer and pursuer cycle going continuously is maddening for both involved. By knowing the way you prefer to handle conflicts and trusting that you are both desiring a peaceful and loving relationship, you can start to focus on the areas of compromise needed to quell the conflict.