Why Avoiding Conflict Isn't the Same as Resolving It

Resolving conflict often takes more courage than avoiding it.

To many, conflict is daunting. The risk of escalating tensions and starting a full-blown argument can lead some people to try and avoid the conflict altogether. This may temporarily quell the issue, but in fact, avoiding conflict often just allows resentment to fester and can lead to even bigger issues down the line. Existing conflict stemming from the divorce or separation can make the task of maintaining lines of communication even harder than they need to be. But for parents who share the responsibility of raising their children across separate homes, avoiding conflict—instead of working to resolve it—can prove to only make co-parenting more complicated than it should be.

Conflict avoidance between co-parents can lead to unforeseen pitfalls

In any relationship, including between co-parents, refraining from addressing conflict can prove to have an even larger impact on more than just the relationship's current standing. Relucting to face conflict can drive individuals to avoid speaking altogether, which leaves more room for the problem to morph into something it wasn't at the start. Assumptions can drive conflicts to go down paths they didn't need to take, only escalating the impending argument. Soon, you might find yourself upset over something based entirely on speculation and far from your original concern in the first place. 

As a co-parent, avoiding conflict can altogether run your whole family into tight spots. While you don't want to face conflict with your co-parent as a way to protect your children from sensing or experiencing it, dodging it completely could be causing your children to feel it even more. Conflict avoidance between co-parents often falls in line with poor communication, or a lack of it entirely. Not communicating about your children's needs and other parenting concerns can cause them to experience consequences. It can impact their daily lives if their parents are not sharing important information as a way to avoid facing conflict. It can also take a toll on their emotions, especially if they end up having to play messenger for their parents who won't communicate directly. 

Handling conflict in a healthier manner

While you might dread the thought of bringing up certain matters with your co-parent, there are ways to handle conflict that are healthier than others and could lead to better outcomes faster. 

  • Be brave. It's not always easy to bring up a tough subject, but keeping your feelings pent up inside can make it even harder to face these matters later on. Also, being afraid in the moment of sharing your feelings and accepting what your co-parent has to say could lead you to throw up your guard and be more defensive than you might have been otherwise. Find your confidence and maintain your composure. 
  • Stay mindful of your tone. Set the scene for a calm, constructive conversation by carefully wording what you want to say. Be careful not to let your emotions get ahead of you. If you are handling a conflict via messaging, certain tools like ToneMeter in the OFW Message Board can help you to make sure you are expressing yourself well without letting emotions misconstrue your words.
  • Don't assume. It can be a disadvantage to walk into a potentially difficult conversation assuming that your way is the best way. Let go of assumptions you have in order to open your mind to new ideas. Give one another the chance to explain your respective stances. 
  • Consider your co-parent's ideas. Just like how tone has a big influence on how well opinions are shared, the way you listen does as well. Don't just hear what your co-parent has to say; listen and consider their ideas. You might find that some of your thoughts actually fall in line. 
  • Enlist professional assistance if need be. Avoiding conflict can lead to bigger consequences than you might want to face down the line, so don't be afraid to find help if you need it when facing difficult matters. Mediation can be a great option if you feel you could use the presence of a neutral third party. 

Don't let unresolved conflict cut all lines of connection

As a co-parent, you share a huge responsibility to your children with their other parent. If you cannot resolve your conflict today, don't allow that to negatively impact your children. It's true that in some instances, co-parents may do better by disengaging from one another instead of actively working to resolve conflict today. In this case, parallel parenting can provide a way for parents to stay connected about important facts concerning their children without possibly getting into the weeds over conflicts. Applications like OurFamilyWizard can create a secure platform for parallel parenting, plus contain a space for co-parents to work on unresolved conflict with the help of their professionals when the time comes. 

Avoiding conflict and resolving conflict are certainly not equal. This is why it is important to consider how best to face difficult subjects so that you can help your whole family move forward. Conflicts might not be resolved overnight, yet taking the time to manage them in a healthy way will be worth it.