Conflict is so unpleasant and even painful that it is easy to assume that every person wants the same thing when a conflict occurs: Resolve and Repair. The problem with this assumption is that it isn’t true. Some people in certain situations don’t actually want resolve and don’t actually want repair. And when we don’t understand this, or the reasons why they don’t, we can end up pretty confused as to why nothing we do to create resolve and repair ever works.
Whenever a person does not actually want repair and resolve, it is because they perceive themselves to benefit somehow by the conflict. They perceive their needs to be better met by the existence of the conflict and its continuation. And even if that person dislikes conflict and also experiences pain as a result of it, they perceive that personal payoff (that personal benefit) as still being currently greater than any personal benefit they would experience as a result of resolve. As you’re about to find out, there are many needs that can actually be met in a shadowy way through conflict. Just a few examples of needs that can be met through conflict are: Importance, significance, attention, superiority, consideration, empathy, belonging, being the priority, self esteem, power, getting what you want, being seen as good and right, connection, closeness, being chosen, control, acknowledgement, a sense of one’s existence, a sense of identity etc.
With this in mind, let’s understand some of the many reasons why a person would not actually want resolve and may even benefit from conflict and “bad blood”.
Some people subconsciously feel that the only way their emotional needs can be met, is through triangulation. And triangulation both implies conflict and requires conflict to stay alive. For example, a person may only feel secure, close and connected to another person if they both share a common enemy. Or, if a person feels insecure about their partner’s relationship with someone else, they may be able to separate their partner from the other person (thereby eliminating the threat) by triangulating their partner against that person. Or a person may only feel good about themselves if they are the good guy and thus a victim in some way to someone else. This means, they need a bad guy to exist and to have other people see them as the victim in a situation in order to enjoy a positive self-concept. To understand this more in depth, watch my video titled: Are You Being Triangulated (A Common Manipulation Technique in Relationships).
A person wants significance, which dovetails with attention. But doesn’t feel they can get it. It is common that if a person cannot feel significant enough in their own right or by being aligned with someone else, they will turn into an adversary and gain significance as well as attention by being against them. When someone suddenly begins to pose a threat to you, they are worthy of your attention. Your nemesis is always significant to you. This is one of the motivations that has turned a few people into school shooters. This is a shadow you also see often around celebrities. People have made entire careers and gained spotlights they would never otherwise have, just because they decided to be the one who was against a person who already has significance and attention in greater society. And when this is the case, repair and resolve means no more significance and no more attention.
This point goes hand in hand with the last one. Conflict can be a “hook”. It can be a pull that is impossible to ignore. And ultimately, a way to stay emotionally close and important to someone. When a person creates an issue, your attention goes to wherever that issue is. If a person becomes a full-on adversary, they are the threat to your wellbeing and thus become the most important person to you. On the extreme end of the scale, this can get abusive and can also turn into trauma bonding. On the less extreme end of the scale, an example of this is when a person finds themselves actually deliberately picking fights in a relationship, so as to hook someone who is acting otherwise unavailable and not giving them attention. You also see this dynamic a lot (a well as the next one on our list) in divorce courts.
A person is using conflict as a way to gain control and power. Power is the inherent capacity to create, direct, influence or do something so as to bring about what we want. When we feel in power, we feel in control. When we feel like we don’t have the capacity to create, direct, influence or do something so as to bring about what we want while getting along with someone or being in agreement or alignment with them, we turn to conflict as the best way to do so. In this way, creating and maintaining conflict can be an antidote to perceived powerlessness and lack of control. It becomes a way we subconsciously try to get into a position of control and power.
A person currently thinks they would feel better by exacting revenge or consequences. When a person is stuck in a mental and emotional space where revenge feels like the only way to experience relief, they feel like resolve and repair would only bring more pain. It is actually natural in situations where a person perceives themselves to have been really hurt by someone, for them to wish harm on the other person. This is actually a subconscious desire to force both empathy and reform in the other person. They may even want the other person to pay for what they did. Or suffer for what they did. You see this often when people feel wronged by someone else. They may go out of their way to cause that person pain. In these situations, resolve and repair feels like just letting a person do whatever horrible thing they want to you, with no consequences. And just having to take it. And forgiveness feels like letting them off the hook.
A person is benefitting by resentment and by holding a grudge. Both of these feelings imply that someone sees themselves as having been wronged. To repair and resolve often implies letting go of these things. But holding onto these things may just be what helps a person avoid shame. These things may help a person feel like they were and are right, good, lovable and a success. As opposed to wrong, bad, unlovable and a failure. Also, things like anger and begrudging feel better than powerlessness.
A person does not want something that would come about through being allied and finding a win-win. Instead, they know that what they want and need, you will never agree to because it is a zero-sum game in which you lose. And so, they feel that playing a zero-sum game, which implies conflict, is the only way to get whatever it is that they want. An example of this dynamic can be seen over and over again throughout history whenever a conqueror sought to take over a certain territory. They wanted that territory. They put the people in that territory in a zero-sum game, knowing they would never just give it up. They didn’t mind having to kill for what they wanted. War was their way to get it, not repair and resolve.
This point goes hand in hand with the last point. “Bad Blood” is a bad feeling of ill will, anger, hatred and hostility between two parties. Bad blood is a byproduct of conflict. And it feels so bad, it can be used deliberately like an emotional torture device. Bad blood can be used as a strategy to apply pressure to someone so that they give in. In this case, things that maintain conflict, like withholding needs, withdrawal, passive aggression, cold shouldering and triangulating become a way to cause a person enough pain, that they surrender and the other person gets what they want.
Some people feel that getting what they want directly, can’t happen. And that they can only get what they want when they put the other person in a lose-lose and force them to choose. This tactic employs conflict as a manipulation strategy. They make sure to create a scenario where the other person choosing what they want them to choose (what would meet their own needs) is the obvious lesser of two evils. They do this by using the other person’s needs against them. For example, a person may put their partner in a position to quit their job and keep the relationship or choose to keep their job and lose the relationship. To understand more about this, you may benefit by watching two of my videos. The first is: How To Win at Lose-Lose (No Win) Scenarios. The second is: Why the Choose Me Dynamic Can Be Toxic For Relationships.
One of the lesser-known reasons that a person may not actually want repair or resolve to a conflict is that in that specific conflict, some form of repair and resolve for childhood trauma is actually taking place. It is a subconscious attempt to re-create a childhood conflict so as to be able to manipulate a different result this time. When this is the case, it isn’t even about you. You are simply playing the role of someone from their past. For example, imagine that when a woman was a little girl, her father left the family for another woman. In adulthood, this woman might intentionally choose into a relationship with a man who is sexually attracted to another woman. She may try to hook him so that all of his needs are met by her. And create conflicts with the other woman. And then force him to choose between the other woman and her. When he chooses her, it will be a healing experience relative to her childhood. In other words, this time she was able to create a different outcome. This time, her dad chose her instead. When a person is in one of these subconscious re-creation dramas, what they are trying to resolve often comes from so much pain that they become unintentionally narcissistic and don’t care how much conflict they have to create and how much damage they do to others, in order to get that personal resolve.
Conflict helps some people who feel very little to feel something. It is an antidote to numbness. It arouses a part of the nervous system that helps a person feel alive. It can feel like a spark in the nothingness… Something rather than nothing.
Conflict can be associated with love. If conflict is what a person sees their parents do chronically. And sees it as the way their parents pull each other and connect with each other. Or if conflict was the baseline experience and their only connection between themselves and their parents, it becomes their only reference for what it means to connect and to love and to be loved. And people who struggle with this often report that stable relationships feel unsafe, like ticking time bombs, or alone (like there is no relationship). Conflict can cause a person to feel pulled. As if they matter enough for someone to get into a conflict with or about. It can also serve as an antidote to being ignored, and thus closer to love. As a side note, some people feel so at the other person’s mercy in any relationship, that when things are going good in a relationship (meaning no conflict), they perceive their needs as being met by the other person. And this is scary because it means the other person is in the position of power. So, being the one to deliberately create the conflict puts them back in the power position, back in the place for the other person to be at their mercy instead and back in the position to be safe by being free, solo and meeting their own needs.
Conflict can be a way of feeling a sense of self, an identity. Some people who have suffered from enmeshment trauma and who have developmental trauma around the development of identity, can often only feel a sense of self when they are in opposition to something. They long for closeness, but when they get close to people and feel aligned, they begin to feel like they are losing themselves and are losing their boundaries and are being consumed by the other person. Therefore, conflict is what keeps their sense of self intact. To understand more about this, it would benefit you to watch two of my videos. The first is: Why People Are Stuck in The Cycle of Either Complying or Rebelling. And the second is: The Freedom/Connection Split Within Humanity.
If a person actually wants repair, they act differently. They are bothered by the rupture and conflict to the degree that they initiate repair and demonstrate their prioritization of it and commitment to it. They both speak and act (don’t just speak) like it is in their best interests to be on good terms with you. If you are confused about whether someone actually wants repair, a smart thing to do is to mentally put them on mute and watch their actions as if you were a fly on the wall over the course of time (since the conflict began) as if you were watching a silent movie. What do their actions say?
When you put a person who does want resolve in the position of having to answer the question: What could I have done differently and what do you need me to do differently now to feel aligned in this situation? They will have or will come up with a direct answer. They will be able to tell you specifically and exactly what they want, unless they are so ashamed of the truth of what they actually want that they won’t own up to it. People who don’t actually want resolve will struggle to answer this and may even try to postpone giving you an answer. Because being aligned isn’t actually what they want.
With a person who wants resolve and repair, a conflict will actually get resolved. The issue won’t keep coming up over and over again as if nothing you do to repair it actually creates repair and resolve. With this in mind, it would benefit you to know about a specific pattern that often contributes to this pattern of nothing you do to solve a conflict actually solving that conflict. You can learn about this dynamic by watching my video titled: How Owning The Truth Solves The “No Resolve Pattern” in Relationships.
With a person who wants resolve and repair, they will be actively looking to find a win-win scenario. Or a way to make the situation feel better to all parties, so there is no longer bad blood. Keep in mind that a win-win scenario is very different than a compromise. To understand this in depth watch my video titled: Why You Should Never Make Compromises in a Relationship. This is different from making threats, exhibiting all or nothing behavior, trying to win, refusing to communicate, withdrawing or walking away, making the entire conversation about blame and rightness, being passive aggressive, imposing punishments, triangulating, spreading rumors, refusing to reflect on what they might have done wrong or bad or exhibiting victim control behavior.
Don’t forget that people can consciously want resolve and repair, but feel like they can’t get what they need and want through repair, and so the lesser of two evils between conflict and not getting what they need and want… is conflict. When this is the case for people, they have a very hard time seeing that they don’t want repair or resolution. They won’t relate to it, because they do want it... Just not as much as they want other things.
It can be confusing when you are in a conflict with someone who isn’t actually trying to create repair and resolve. It can become a gaslighting situation. And it can be hard to understand what exactly they are getting out of the situation being the way it is and even escalating. But hopefully this article helped you to come to a greater understanding. And if you find yourself in this situation, you can always ask yourself: How are they benefitting personally by this conflict staying the way it is and even escalating? What need is it meeting? How is the conflict in their best interests? And what might they feel they will lose by the conflict ending or by being aligned with me? How is it against their best interests for the conflict to end?