Q: I’m looking for more information specifically strategies for dealing with avoidance with my wife when dealing with conflict, disagreements, or issues that make me uncomfortable. When in those moments I have a tendency to freeze up and we are expecting a child, our due date was Friday the 24th. I have a counting session scheduled but would appreciate any tips to use before I get to the session.
A: Hi there,
Thank you so much for reaching out — we’re glad you did. And congratulations on expecting a child! What you’re describing is very normal when in conflict with a significant other. The tendency to “freeze” because you feel uncomfortable and want to avoid conflict is a natural response since we typically learn to avoid pain and seek pleasure. However, learning how to effectively “move through” conflict is an invaluable skill in relationships. We use the verbiage “move through” to hopefully alleviate some pressure you might be feeling in those moments because being in conflict or arguments isn’t all about “resolving” the conflict. More often it’s about finding some common ground, calming yourself and/or your partner, and potentially regrouping when you’re both less emotionally reactive.
A great first step for you might be to practice verbalizing what you’re feeling instead of freezing and leaving conflict. Instead, could you say something like, “Hey, I’m feeling really stressed right now and need to take (a minute, a few deep breaths, etc.) before we dive into this”? In general, sharing feelings and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in that way with your partner is usually well-received, because it keeps you in communication rather than avoiding entirely, which might trigger your partner even more when in conflict.
If you find it hard to be vulnerable, that’s ok! That’s something you might consider bringing up with your therapist to explore where that fear is coming from and find skills to be more comfortable with the uncomfortable. We hope this provides some insight!
Emily Simonian, M.A., LMFT