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The Key To Resolving Deep Lingering Relationship Conflicts

Undoubtedly, unresolved emotional conflicts and unhealed trauma wounds impact your relationship with yourself and others. This effect can have many faces and show up in various ways. One of the most common ways it can show up is when you keep having the same fight over and over. This pattern can happen in any type of relationship involving intimacy. 

Intimacy in relationships is about having closeness, feeling supported and cared for, and being emotionally connected. You can have intimacy with romantic partners, friends, and family. 

When you look at intimacy and closeness beyond the sexual undertones of it, you can start to see how it’s a cornerstone of any healthy relationship, regardless of its type.  

Today, we’re highlighting why you might find yourself stuck in having the same argument, conflict, or fight, especially with your intimate partner(s). And what you can do about it. You can also generalize this information to other types of relationships in your life. 

Why Are You Stuck In The Same Fight?

One of the reasons you can find yourself stuck in a pattern that you can’t break away from is Trauma Reenactment

Trauma reenactment is a psychological phenomenon that happens unintentionally and unconsciously. It’s a way of coping with what you’re carrying inside you due to what happened to you. You may find yourself repeating elements of your past as a way to heal from it and master it. Such as picking a partner you feel emotionally safe enough with or familiar enough with to work out the unresolved wound UNINTENTIONALLY. 

You can find yourself repeating these dynamics when you’re unaware of this phenomenon and how it plays out in your life, including the pattern of conflict. These patterns are often understood as the underlying current of water that’s unseen but felt, and emerges over time. Ultimately, this pattern leads to further reliving of the trauma and re-traumatization.

Examples of this can be:

  • Experiences of helplessness leading you to feel as if you don’t have choice and control in your relationship(s)
  • Incidents of violence leading you to behave impulsively
  • Experiences of exclusion leading you to feel unimportant and insignificant, and then acting in an aloof or distant way
  • Experiences about your body being activated in feeling unwanted and undesired, so you hold back, withdraw, or isolate

Trauma reenactment can be understood overall in this triangle of roles/emotion states:

  • Victim

When you’re in this role/emotion state, you likely feel and act helpless, overwhelmed, inadequate, or entitled. For example, you hold back from communicating your opinions, preferences, wants, and needs out of fear. 

  • Rescuer

When you’re in this role/emotional state, you likely feel and act like a martyr, with internal pressure/sense of urgency, guilt trips, and as if you’re the only one who can help. For example, you’re consistently at the center of people needing help in your close relationships.

  • Persecutor 

In this role/emotional state, you likely feel and act with criticism, blame, rigidity, and lead by denying vulnerability. For example, “I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong” when something is happening. Or, “you’re to blame; it’s not my fault.”

It’s important to recognize these aren’t fixed roles/emotional states. You might have a dominant one you lead with, or you can alternate between them depending on the situation and relationship. This is one reason why you might find certain people or situations more triggering than others.

Outcomes Of Trauma Reenactment

When your trauma is activated in this way, it’s more likely that your wounds will bleed all over your relationship. This shows up in:

  • Avoiding crucial conversations that need to be happening
  • Interacting in ways that interfere with your ability to get to the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve
  • Unspoken things remaining hidden and invisible
  • Avoiding or escaping the problem, aka “shoving things under the rug”
  • Acting in ways that reduce your connection, closeness, and intimacy
  • Finding yourself in a holding pattern with your partner(s) and continuing to feel frustrated and stuck

Ultimately, this leads you to feel dissatisfied in your relationship(s).

Getting Unstuck And Moving Towards Solutions

Actively working on getting unstuck and developing new patterns will help you have greater intimacy and closeness. It increases peace and flow, not because you stop having conflict entirely, but because you resolve it by finding better ways that honor you and others. 

You can start to show up differently in your relationships and get on the road to solving this problem by:

  • Identifying Triggers

Work individually and with your partner(s) on pinpointing what gets activated internally and externally when you’re stuck in a conflict or fight, so you can work toward de-activating the pre-existing strong reactions and move closer to harmony. Connect with a mental health professional as needed to help you navigate and resolve this.

  • Practicing Courage

Truth is harder to speak when intense challenging emotions are involved. Lean in -  it helps you to be courageous with yourself and other people. It fosters compassion and kindness. It includes communicating about things you’re no longer ok with. 

  • Building Vulnerability

Have the crucial difficult conversations that allow you to navigate vulnerability with people you trust and feel safe with. It’s about practicing being transparent with one another on various levels. This type of vulnerability allows you to be generous in your relationships. So you connect and build closeness and intimacy.

  • Develop Understanding

Understanding isn’t about agreement. It’s about acknowledgment. Understanding is a stance of empathy and being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can respect the other person’s experience in this way even when you don’t agree with it. What you get from this is the mutual experience of being heard and seen, and you let go of having to be right.

  • Leading with your Humanity

This means leading with integrity and dignity with one another. Integrity and dignity support many of the above recommendations. An example of this is, avoiding gossip, assumptions, and interpretations. It means checking with one another. When you honor one another’s human dignity, you honor each other’s experiences and identity. You say, “I get you.”

You can find more practical tips and go deeper on this in these previous articles that shed light on other ways unresolved trauma can show up for you in your relationships:

As you start to apply these recommendations, remember to have compassion for yourself and others. You’re not going to get it perfect. And, perfection isn’t the goal. Improvement is. 

What recommendation clicked for you differently as a result of reading this? And how might you apply it in your life?

I look forward to hearing from you as you navigate new and improved ways to more satisfying relationships.

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Hiba Khatkhat

Hiba is a holistic psychotherapist specializing in trauma, couples treatment, and culture. She's passionate about solving mental health crises by practicing prevention. She brings over 18 years of experience working with individuals, couples, & families in her private practice. She is known for her work on the transmission of trauma and its impact on relationships.

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