There is nothing unusual, unnatural or to be feared about conflict. It is a natural part of all human relationships. We are all different, we have different personality types, have different ways of looking at things, want different things and we have different likes and dislikes. With people we live with, work with, are friends with and have relationships with when differences occur there is almost certainly going to be conflict. It would be odd for there not to be conflict in any of these circumstances.
It is not that there is a disagreement that matters, it is how it is handled that can be either positive or negative. It can be dealt with destructively, abusively and disrespectfully OR differences can be resolved constructively and respectfully.
We learn our own ways of handling disagreements with others – these can become habitual reactions to conflicts. This leads to a pattern developing and what happens in conflict when two people in a close relationship develop these patterns – using their knowledge of each others' buttons and weaknesses the "Dance of Anger" develops – see Self Esteem section of Stepping Stones.
These negative patterns of "dances" can be changed. It is not easy and does take effort but we can learn to deal with conflict in new ways. Practice makes perfect and if we change our "dance steps" it encourages and models change for the other person. Fear of dealing with conflict leads to avoidance and problems just escalate, and resentment grows.
A brief summary of transactional analysis (TA)
Transactional analysis is a model of psychology and psychotherapy that was originally developed by Eric Berne in the 1950's.
Briefly the theory is that humans operated from one of three ego states in any interaction with another human – a transaction.
The three ego states are Parent, Adult, and Child. The Parent state is subdivided into nurturing parent or critical parent. The Child is subdivided into playful or wilful child.
This creates interactions that are:
I'm okay –You're okay , I'm okay – You're not okay, I'm not okay – You're okay, I'm not okay –You're not okay.
With substance use the common transactions are between critical parent (family member) and wilful child (drug user). For transactions that are positive ideally we need to operate adult to adult. If only the family member moves to adult it can provide a model for the drug user to change to adult.
If you need to read more the ideal references are 'Games People Play' by Eric Berne and 'I'm OK – You're OK' by Thomas A. Harris.