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5 Types of Conflict That May Be Beneficial

author image Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.
5 Types of Conflict That May Be Beneficial
An old happy couple on a park bench. Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

All healthy relationships go through periods of conflict. When handled well, disagreements force people to talk, work out differences and find mutually beneficial solutions to problems. Conflict can be beneficial when one person learns to take the perspective of another, or two people reach a compromise. Conflict doesn't have to break apart relationships -- and when managed properly can make them stronger.

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Minor Conflicts

Minor conflicts involve those pesky differences that can plague relationships. Perhaps your partner forgets to take out the trash, your mother calls late at night or your roommate plays her music too loud. Conflicts over minor issues can usually be easily resolved, says clinical psychologist Larry Alan Nadig, in the article, "Relationship Conflict: Healthy or Unhealthy," by finding a mutually beneficial solution. For example, you might agree to the loud music, but only during certain hours of the day. Minor conflicts are beneficial in that their resolutions help to keep the peace long term.

Conflicts About Expectations

A couple might have different expectations about aspects of their relationship, which can lead to conflict, says psychologist Susan Heitler in the "Psychology Today" article, "What Makes Conflict? How Are Conflicts Resolved?" For example, one partner might believe that weekends will be spent together at home, while the other partner expects to go out with friends every Saturday night. Conflicts about expectations are beneficial when a compromise is met. Needs that are not shared will inevitably go unmet, which can lead to long-term resentment.

Conflicts About Behaviors

Conflicts that focus on behaviors instead of personality traits can be easier to resolve, says relationship expert Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., as cited in the "Psych Central" article, "How Conflict Can Improve Your Relationship." Instead of telling your husband that he is suffocating and needy, suggest that he send a text message instead of calling your cell phone while you are out with your friends. He will be less defensive and will know which behaviors to change to improve the situation.

Conflicts About Opinions

Perhaps your best friend believes that JFK was the victim of a government conspiracy or that children should be home-schooled -- and you disagree. If you have a difference of opinion with another person, it offers the chance to learn about a perspective other than your own. Learning how to disagree in an agreeable manner is also a useful social skill, says psychologist Susan Heitler in the "Psychology Today" article, "The Art of Disagreeing Agreeably." For example, if your friend has some good points about why home-schooling offers advantages, acknowledge them before listing your concerns about the practice.

Conflicts Over Values

Conflicts about values are often the most difficult to resolve. Values are more tightly held than opinions, and are less likely to change. At the same time, conflicts over values don't have to spell the end of a relationship. For example, if you and your boyfriend come from different religious backgrounds, there will need to be some negotiation within the relationship as a result. As long as you are working as a team to resolve conflicts, even these more stable issues can be managed, says clinical psychologist Lisa Blum, as cited in the "Psych Central" article, "8 Surprising Myths About Relationships." Couples with conflicting values may develop a stronger relationship, because they have to work harder to resolve the differences that result.

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