What Is Family Conflict?

A family is made up of many unique individuals, each with a range of thoughts and opinions on almost every subject and situation. Add to the mix extended family with their countless beliefs and personal opinions and there is no wonder disagreements ensure from time to time. Conflict is simply the natural and healthy progression of any relationship. Most psychologists will tell you that a certain amount of family conflict is healthy, far better than a situation with no conflict at all (which is also indicative of a problem in itself).

Yet unfortunately, it doesn't always end there. According to Dr. Leonard Felder, author of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People, 70 percent of us have a frustrating or difficult relative lurking somewhere in our family tree. Whether that relative is an immediate family member like a rebellious child or they are a relative by marriage, like a controlling in-law or demanding step-parent, the impact on the entire family can be extremely stressful and at times, quite destructive. In some families, there is no single person , but just a seemingly "bad mix" of personalities that cannot get along.

When the degree and intensity of fighting and arguing increases to the point where they impact daily functioning, happiness, or the personality of one or more family members, outside intervention becomes necessary. Counseling offers family members a neutral voice and a place to be heard. It can also give us the necessary tools to resolve conflict in a healthy way, bringing peace and harmony back to our everyday lives.

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There are many who's tongues might govern multitudes, if they could govern their tongues. - Prentice

Why Does my Family Fight All the Time?

Whenever you put two people with distinct personalities and ideas into the same room, at some point opposing thoughts are inevitable. If presented in a non-threatening manner, these different viewpoints can actually help us to learn about each other and grow as individuals. This is the natural progression of any relationship. The problem generally arises when we get caught in our egos. From this point on, rational thinking goes out the window and conflicts become winner-takes-all battles in which everybody loses.

No matter the issue, the underlying reason for most disagreements is the fear of losing control of someone or something. As such, the issue at hand is never really what we are arguing about. Teenagers regularly use everyday situations as potential battlefields to assert their newfound independence. As parents, we watch in horror wondering where are cute five-year-old went, panicking at the mere thought of losing control over them. They, despite their bravado demeanors, are also afraid of losing control. The result? Battle lines are quickly drawn and persistent conflicts result.

The mother/daughter-in-law relationship is very similar. The friction between these two women results from a fight for control over the man, a struggle in which each woman seemingly has much to lose. Even the husband/wife scenario is wrought with varying degrees of control. Whether overtly displayed or well hidden beneath an array of unresolved feelings, marriage for the most part, is a give-and-take process in which each partner negotiates their level of control. Sibling rivalry is yet another example of control-based conflict. As each of these relationships progresses, either the control issues will be resolved peacefully and in a manner acceptable to either parties, or conflicts will grow until the relationship is ultimately destroyed, often taking several casualties with it.

As of May 2005, the divorce rate for marriages to survive 30 years was 38 percent according to the United States Census Bureau. Canada has nearly the same rate at 37.6. Not surprisingly, unresolved family conflict is the leading cause of separation and divorce in today’s win-or-lose society. Unfortunately, as we ultimately learn after the fact, there are no winners because somewhere down the line someone ultimately suffers the repercussions.

Knowing When to Get Help for My Family

Basically, whenever a situation starts to control our lives, affecting our everyday functioning, it is a clear signal we need a neutral perspective. Healthy conflict is a natural part of any relationship; ongoing stress is not. There are several warning signs of undue stress for both children and parents. If your eating habits or sleeping patterns have changed recently or if you feel tired and down most of the time and there is no physical explanation, this could be an indication you are experiencing higher than normal levels of stress. Significant weight gain or loss, anxiousness, irritability and consistent headaches and or stomachaches can also signal a body in overload. If you or your child is abusing alcohol or using drugs, this is a sure sign you need help. Skipping school, failing grades and promiscuous behavior are all good indicators that something is wrong. Whether you are aware or not, the conflicts in your life can seriously affect both your emotional and physical well-being. Unresolved issues can quickly overtake our lives and affect everyone around us. Although we will never be able to completely remove all of life’s many conflicts, often counseling can offer us a new perspective and give us the tools to resolve it in a healthy and acceptable way. Sometimes an impartial voice is all that is needed to clear the way for mutual understanding and a peaceful existence.

Utilizing Counseling to Resolve Family Arguments and Conflict

Addressing family arguments can be a difficult and challenging event given the number of people and personalities that become involved. Working with a Theravive counselor, we recognize that often a family’s patterns of relating to each other and style of communication can be deeply entrenched. Often, roles within the family have been well established with individual members being identified with such labels as “the over-achiever”, “the trouble-maker”, “the peace-maker”, or “the enabler”.

At Theravive we believe resolving family conflict is a two-fold approach. First, is to determine what has caused the current crisis and what family members are prepared to do to reach an acceptable resolution. Throughout this process, the second component of conflict resolution takes place; learning to communicate effectively ensuring there is not any misunderstanding or assumptions that develop

In some situations, families are faced with a specific event that causes a disagreement. This could include how to care fro an aging parent, how to support a couple through a separation, or dealing with a disruptive teen. Common is most families as well, is the existence of previous events that have been left unresolved that contribute to the emotion of the current situation. Your Theravive counsellor is committed to working through these historical issues where individuals are ready to address these painful past events. However, in some instances, counseling reaches a successful resolution when the present concern is addressed.

If you need a therapist to help you, we have a large selection of online therapists who are professional and licensed counselors, able to help you right where you are over the phone, via email, or webcam/messenger. If you prefer face to face counseling, please use our therapist directory and find a city close to you with a therapist who can meet your needs.


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