9 Conflict Patterns That Damage Relationships

Conflict Patterns That Damage Relationships_

9) “Dirty Fighter” versus “Innocent” Victim

Caveat: This type of fighting pattern is not intended to describe intentionally abusive partners whose behavior is unacceptable. It is more a fighting pattern between committed partners who care for each other.

This pattern is easily recognized as the typical “good guy/bad guy” argument. As one partner begins to challenge, criticize, or demand change, the other quickly assume an outside posture of an overly-accommodating about-to-be-punished role, while inwardly feeling unjustly accused.

The presented posture of the weakness of the submissive partner is often an underlying strategy to get the more dominant, frustrated challenger to escalate his or her attack to make it clear who is the “bad guy.” On the other end of the “victimized” partner’s increasingly inadequate and weak response, the challenging partner begins to feel an escalating need to justify his or her demands.

Underneath the exaggerated expressions that follow, the now dirty fighter usually feels guilt and remorse, but cannot let go of his or her behavior. When the fight is over, the guilt emerges in the desire to forget what happened and a sincere attempt to heal the wounds he or she has caused. The abused partner then becomes the winner, holding the wounds up as evidence of the injustice.

Related: 6 Most Common Enemies of Intimacy In A Relationship

These ineffective and ultimately damaging conflicts are bad business for any relationship. The more they are repeated, the more damage they cause. No matter how many wonderful aspects a relationship has, the darkness of repeated, irresolvable, mutually wounding interactions will take its toll over time.

The beginning of healing is your courageous willingness to be accountable for whichever role you may play in these types of battles. If you are able to just eliminate your repeated non-resolvable disputes, you will automatically make the room to become more successful in resolving your differences.


Written by Randi Gunther Ph.D.
Originally appeared in Psychology Today
9 Common Negative Conflict Patterns That Damage Relationships
9 Conflict Patterns That Damage Relationships
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9 Conflict Patterns That Damage Relationships
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