Threatening to leave a relationship every time you argue? That was me.
I wrestled with the idea that I could disagree with someone, even be angry with them... and still love and care and want a relationship with them. One disagreement and I would be packing my bags.
Short-term, I would feel free and liberated. I would go do all the things I "couldn't" do because I had been in a relationship.
Long-term, I would get lonely again and come crawling back to the same relationships, over and over again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
That's no longer how I deal with conflict in my relationships. But I remember when it was the ONLY way I dealt with conflict.
Small problems can build up over time. Whether it was because I was too infatuated to care about the problems, too busy to address them, or too confused about how to go about solving them... they would continue to built up until they exploded. An argument would ensue, angry words thrown back and forth, and then abruptly end in one or both of us storming off.
Outbursts of built-up rage and bitterness would leave me feeling pretty ashamed of myself, but I was still so angry. All I could see was what the other person had done or failed to do. And I was sure... positive... that this relationship wasn't going to work out because this person didn't listen to me, didn't care, and was impossible to talk to. My only option was to leave.
The pattern of abandoning relationships in the tough times wore on my self-esteem... and definitely wore on the relationships I was trying to keep in my life. So how did I break free?
First, I had to stop avoiding conflict and learn to deal with it right away. This was scary! I had to challenge my fears that someone would hate me if I brought up a concern or made a request. I learned instead that people actually respect me more when I communicate openly and clearly and keep my boundaries.
Second, I had to learn how to have healthy conflict! Conflict is a positive thing when it results in mutual respect and understanding. I learned to speak in a way that communicated my wants and my feelings, without attacking or insulting the person I was speaking to. I learned how to make requests without demanding or threatening ultimatums. I learned how to take a "no" with grace, and make wise decisions about how to get my needs met.
What used to be chaotic, tumultuous relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners turned into a steady growth of connection.
Angry, yelling fights turned to open conversation about feelings and clear requests about what we would like to change. Problems stopped building up and were solved quickly before they could cause major damage. People felt safe to express their concerns with me, and welcomed my feedback as well.
We learned from each other THROUGH the conflict, instead of losing each other BECAUSE of the conflict.
Are you a conflict-avoiding escape artist?? What do you do when conflict arises with people you love?