November 2017
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conflict is a kind of intimacy: be it bratty, unresolved, or constructive, it's not enough by itself


All conflict is intimacy. It is a genuine, exposing kind of interaction. This is why people say that hate and love are two sides of the same coin, and the trope of falling in love with the antagonist exists. This is why if you're constantly in disagreements with someone (like a coworker or classmate), you may feel closer to them than to strangers, even though you might dislike them at the same time. And of course, it's why "hate sex" or "makeup sex" is considered hot. This is why little kids will annoy the shit out of you and laugh with glee. It's not that they want to make you unhappy, it's that they want to be close and conflict intimacy through poking or noises or whatever is the easiest and (as long as they trust you not to be abusive) lowest risk form of intimacy. If someone grimaces at your annoying behavior, it doesn't mean they dislike you, and you get to feel a little closer through that interaction. If someone grimaces at your attempt to hug them, or looks away from your smile at them, it's hard not to feel that they dislike you, so that is a higher risk. I feel tolerant of people who attempt to bond with me through annoying me, but I don't like it and I will usually try to push them to ask for what they really want. With little kids it's usually physical play or cuddling, with adults it's usually focused attention.

People who never learned non-conflict intimacy can grow up into people who constantly make sharp jokes and tease rudely. Sometimes they're actually mean-spirited but I think most of the time they don't know how to feel connected any other way. I think this is also part of the reason that people fall in love with mean, selfish people: they are a huge source of conflict, and if that is the only way you know to be intimate, a relationship without conflict would be one without intimacy as well, so it seems 'boring.' Really it's that the skills for non-conflict intimacy are so much more work and take more risk because you have to learn who you really are, and then share that, which means a potential blow doesn't glance off your shell, but hits home.

There's different varieties of conflict intimacy of course- the simple bratty kind that usually isn't consensual and can't mature, the unresolved kind (with anyone whom you can't or won't work it out with) that doesn't mature, and then the constructive kind, which matures through resolution into a deeper understanding of the other person. That last kind is obviously my favorite. Recently there was a conflict between Roger and Heather, and another between Kei-Won-Tia and Zawn, and all the people involved used it constructively and because they shared the process with me, not only are they (potentially) closer, I feel closer to each of them through empathizing with their feelings and learning about them through their reactions.

Constructive conflict intimacy takes a lot of energy though; if there isn't enough non-conflict intimacy then you'll get worn out and eventually not have enough energy to engage, and then your conflicts will be unresolved and your intimacy will stop being so nourishing. This happened with me and Kylei when we were both depressed and being crap at self-care, and neither of us realized it was happening because we had always had a lot of conflict, but we had also always had a lot of non-conflict intimacy through mindful touch and silliness/play. When our non-conflict intimacy stopped happening, we still felt intimate but it didn't feel good, and we didn't really understand why. Eventually we got to a point where we had endless unresolved conflict and even though we were still very much in love, it was terribly damaging for us to be together. Since then I've learned that conflict intimacy sometimes needs to be avoided for a little while and other intimacy needs to be used. So if Topaz and I are having lots of hard conversations, usually we'll have a little down time with casual cuddles while watching a show and then we'll have focused mindful touch while silent. I always want to get all the hard stuff over with so it can be very hard for me to put a conflict on pause but if I didn't learn to do that I'd be making energy deficits that were much harder to fill back up.

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Comments
notquiteright ══╣╠══
I never thought about conflict causing intimacy but I can see how it's been true in my life. Friends who I eventually "had a fight with" - if we got past it we were closer.

I
belenen ══╣nascent╠══
*nods* my closest relationships have had the BIGGEST conflicts.
twofootsmall ══╣╠══
Wow. Just...wow.

I need to absorb what I understand of this then return to it later. Thank you.
belenen ══╣interconnectedness╠══
<3 you are welcome, I'm glad it spoke to you.
classical_wolf ══╣╠══
Loved reading about this - thank you :)
belenen ══╣giving╠══
welks ;-)
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
This filled in some gaps in my understanding of conflicts and intimacy. Also thanks for the link expanding on your intimacy practice. Really helpful. All of it.

-Lisa (aka chilly... LJ won't let me sign in at the moment)
belenen ══╣loving╠══
cool! glad it gave some food for thought ;-)
keiwontia ══╣╠══
Thank you, for this.
belenen ══╣incitement╠══
<3 welks!
ellettra ══╣╠══
Very interesting and insightful post!
belenen ══╣iconoclast╠══
thanks!
meri_sielu ══╣Wintery hooded crow╠══
So insightful, I never thought of conflict as being a kind of intimacy but you're right! I can see how interconnected they are. Lots to think about here, Thankyou. :)
belenen ══╣interconnectedness╠══
you're most welcome!
ohhhlife ══╣╠══
This is so interesting! I have a history of being with people who fight with me or pick on me, but i NEVER respond in kind. I also don't know if i've ever -really- felt close to anyone. Interesting to think about it from this perspective!
belenen ══╣artless╠══
glad it gave you some food for thought!
kehlen_crow ══╣╠══
This is so spot on, but for some reason I have never heard about conflicts from this viewpoint. Thank you for pointing it out.
belenen ══╣incitement╠══
you're most welcome :)
raidingparty ══╣╠══
I used this
Showed to my partner. We argue playfully almost every day, but we still need some work on managing stuff when we're actually in conflict.

In related news, the same Japanese phrase, translated "the one you face", works for both "dance partner" and "opponent".
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.