Is It Normal Conflict Or Abuse?

Conflict is a normal part of any relationship. Neither good nor bad, it’s merely a part of life. Resolving conflict in a positive way leads to healthy growth.

It’s how we deal with conflict that matters. The true versus perceived issue varies with each individual. To find resolution, you must first understand what the conflict is all about. To resolve the problem, you need to assess and understand what the needs or concerns are of those involved, and discover whose and what needs are currently not being met.

How we interpret a situation is influenced by many individual factors that color our perception. Our culture, race, and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; general and situational knowledge; even our previous life experiences all play parts in how we react, or do not react, to conflict.

Different personalities also bring different approaches, or styles, to the table. Some approaches can undermine, even harm relationships. What you perceive as a problem may not be the same problem to the person you disagree with. And vice versa. Good communication can play a pivotal role in getting to the real issues at hand. Acknowledge and listen to others’ points of view, and be flexible.

Now that we know conflict is normal, let’s explore the issue of abuse. Where and when does conflict slide into the dark realm of abuse? One key difference is that it usually is one-sided, when a pattern of unhealthy control emerges to overshadow the peaceful times.

Control can be subtle or not. The tactics used by a controlling person are for the sole purpose of getting their way. This control can be about who a partner sees or talks to, where they go, how they spend money, and more. They might monitor and check up on their partner on a continual basis, and intentionally arouse an irrational guilt when their partner socializes in any manner with other people, even family. Abuse is not always as simple and straightforward as physically threatening or hurting a loved one. Emotional intimidation and belittlement can be just as harmful and painful. What is simple about abuse is that it’s not okay. It is not normal and requires a different level of intervention. The need for safety can require outside help to provide guidance, support and protection.

A final and important note — bullying is not normal conflict. Look for three important markers to determine if you or a loved one is being bullied.

  • Is there is an imbalance of power?
  • Is there intent to cause harm or distress?
  • Is there a threat of future harm?

Bullying is aggressive victimization. One person is the perpetrator and the other is the victim. Making the victim feel safe is the priority. Here’s where professional intervention can be helpful.

It’s almost impossible to avoid conflict, and to do so doesn’t resolve the underlying problem. The solution for both sides is working to keep emotions under control and learning how to fight fair.