I Just Can’t Get Over It! I Feel Like I’m in a Fight Club by David Bredehoft

Conflict. Every couple experiences it. Sometimes conflict occurs over small trivial things. Other times conflict erupts over monumental reoccurring and seemingly unresolvable issues in a couple's relationship. Conflict is an inevitable fact of life! It happens. Yet, how one learns to deal with conflict makes a difference in whether the conflict is resolvedor not.

Happiness Igbo, Grace Awopetu, and Christiana Okwori make the following observation regarding couple conflict:

"Conflict is characterized in most cases by quarrels, fighting, severe anger, aggression, violence, bitterness and hatred. It is however part of spousal relationship that can either weaken or strengthen the relationship. It can also be productive, creating understanding, closeness and respect or they can be destructive, causing resentment, hostility, separation, or divorce. How the conflicts often get resolved and not necessarily how often it occurs is the determining factors in healthy and unhealthy relationships." (Igbo, Awopetu, & Okwori, 2015, p. 490)

Couples, Conflict Resolution, and the Overindulgence Triangle

A follow-up study on childhood overindulgence identified the Relationship Overindulgence Triangle. The sample consisted of 233 individuals who were in a relationship (dating, committed dating relationship, engaged, cohabitating, or married). Participants were asked questions covering childhood overindulgence and four scales including the Conflict Resolution Scale (CRS) from PREPARE/Enrich. The CRS measures couple agreement on how to handle conflict (e.g., how to solve disagreements, discussion of problems, methods of avoiding conflict, discussion of difficult issues, etc.). High scores indicate satisfaction with a couple's conflict resolution style.

overindulgence triangle and conflict

The analysis indicates that if individuals were overindulged as children, conflict resolution was a concern in their adult relationships. They were not happy with how their partner fights and with strategies their partner uses to resolve them. 

Listed below are the top six conflict resolution concerns for individuals in a relationship viewed through the lens of the overindulgence triangleI was overindulged — I overindulge my partner — my partner overindulges me.

Top 6 Conflict Resolution Concerns for Those in the Overindulgence Triangle

  1. At the end of an argument, I always feel that the problem was all my fault.
  2. My partner doesn't take our disagreements seriously.
  3. I can't tell my partner what's bothering me.
  4. We never resolve our differences.
  5. We have serious fights over unimportant issues.
  6. My partner has different ideas on the best way to solve our problems.

These six conflict resolution concerns support the hypothesis that childhood overindulgence plays a negative role in adult romantic relationships — the inability to resolve conflict. It's a relationship obstacle if you feel that it is always your fault when you fight with your partner, if your partner blows off your concerns, or if you have difficulty telling your partner what's bothering you. It is a serious issue if your partner believes he/she knows the best way to solve all of your problems.

We know that children who were overindulged grow up feeling that they are the center of the universe, they often confuse wants and needs, have poor self-control, expectations of immediate gratification, and they are more likely to develop materialistic values. This makes resolving conflict difficult.

Resolving conflict is one of the most difficult things to navigate in an adult relationship. Not being able to resolve conflicts on issues large or small can cause discord and dysfunction. Not being able to solve problems may even lead to the dissolution of the relationship.

Those who work with children need to know that there are long-term consequences to overindulging children. Childhood overindulgence can lead them directly into the overindulgence triangle as they seek out adult relationships. Anyone who works with adults caught in the overindulgence triangle has an opportunity to teach them more effective conflict resolution skills. One skill set I recommend teaching is the Ten Steps to Resolving Conflict by David Olson and Prepare/Enrich.

This is the third in a series of posts that explore the overindulgence triangle. My next post will look closer at locus of control, and the overindulgence triangle.

Related Posts

- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

- The Overindulgence Triangle and Money, Money, Money

Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude.

© 2020 David J. Bredehoft


Igbo, H. I., Awopetu, R. G., & Okwori, C. (2015). Relationship between duration fo marriage, personality trait, Gender and Conflict resolution strategies of spouses. Social and Behavioral Sciences190, 490-496. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.05.032

Olson, D. H. (1998). PREPARE/ENRICH counselor’s manual: Version 2000. Minneapolis, MN: Life Innovations, Inc.

Bredehoft, D. J., & Clarke, J. I. (2006). Questions about growing up overindulged and adult relationships. Poster presented at the National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN. 11.11.06.

Bredehoft, D. J., & Armao, C. K. (2008). What teachers can do when overindulged children come to schoolLutheran Education Journal. 142(1), 25-35.

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;  bredehoft@csp.edu