Interpersonal Conflict 102

You’re back! Good for you! This means that something sparked your interest or maybe you just wanted to see what other silliness we would share. Alas, no silliness. This stuff on Interpersonal Conflict is some painstaking, researched stuff and this is not fluffy either. To recap, “Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals” (Wilmot & Hocker, 2010).

Turn that glare on the world

Turn that glare on the world

Let’s tackle the last two dimensions of this heady definition.

…scarce resources…

What does that mean? Is it like on Naked and Afraid where the man and woman find themselves in a desert and they brought with them a net and machete which are pretty much useless in this environment and they will surely die? Yes….and no. Scarce resources means there are lots of wants and hardly anyway to meet them. In a marriage, your resources are not just the material things you have. In a true relationship, your resources are your commitment, loyalty, ability to joke around, ability to make meaning of anything that happens and your love. If you are truly in conflict, this means that these resources that have brought you through things like lost jobs, miscarriages and even an in-law visit, are not enough. If anything signals a death knell to relationship is to believe that your shared resources can’t handle this without going toe to toe and you are left dehydrated and malnourished in a desert of despair.

And last but certainly not least….

…interference from others in achieving their goals.

In a conflict, you feel that your opponent is between you and your goal. You feel that the only way to get to your goal is by getting past your foe. To put this in a graphic example, conflict is ultimately like playing soccer and your opponent is not just blocking your goal, they are trying to take away your ball. This configuration of a relationship is not marriage but some gross comedy of coupling that passes for commitment. If you truly believe that your marriage has conflict and that is ‘normal’ then you believe that:

  1. Your partner is your opponent
  2. Your partner is actively blocking you from getting what you want
  3. Your partner does not share any of your goals.
  4. You have no resources to draw from to deal with it.
  5. Marriage is a competition.

Well, I can tell you for a fact that Paul and I are extremely competitive and Paul has, on several occasions, been known to cheat or even pout when he doesn’t win. I am above that (stop snickering) and take a Zen approach to all competition. By Zen, I mean I get surly, curse and eventually walk off in a huff. So this is how we are with the world but we don’t compete with each other. We do not need to best each other to prove we are better or win some empty prize. Like good superheroes, or evil villains, we join forces and move the mountain instead of trying to get around it or take it apart piece by piece.

So, yeah, we don’t have conflict. Call us weird, that’s OK. We will just be over here moving mountains together and being happy.

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