CONFLICT IN INTIMATE PARTNERSHIPS
According to our hypothesis, human instincts are only of two kinds--those which seek to preserve and unite, which we call erotic, and those which seek to destroy and kill, which we class together as the aggressive or destructive instinct. The phenomena of life arise from the operation of both together, whether acting in concert or in opposition. An instinct of one sort can scarcely ever operate in isolation--it is always accompanied (or, as we say, allocated) with an element from the other side which modified its aim. Thus, for instance, the instinct of self preservation is certainly of an erotic kind; but it must have aggressiveness at its disposal if it is to fulfill its purpose. . . . It is rarely that a given action is the work of a single instinctual impulse which must in itself be compounded of Eros and Destructiveness.
Thus far in this book we have scarcely touched on the subject of conflict in intimate relations. This does not mean that we accept the myth of the happy marriage, which would have us believe that the successful partnership is conflict-free. On the contrary, we feel that conflict is an intrinsic part of any developing relationship. This chapter will explain how this is so. The question that arises about conflict is not whether it exists or does not exist in any given relationship, but how it is expressed, lived with, and managed.