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The Key Reason Why You’re Addicted to Conflict

Written on October 17th

October 2019

​Have you ever noticed there is a limited amount of time when things stay really good in your relationship?

Maybe you have a date night or share some sweet bonding moments or days together and feel really connected and positive and loving towards one another.

But then, in hardly any time at all, you pick a fight or find something to criticize in your partner or start to check out.

Essentially, you find yourselves right back in that familiar place of tension and disconnect.

Why does this happen?

Couple in conflict

Of course, we could explain this nearly universal experience in many ways and could certainly point out the patterns you fall back into that aren’t working (i.e. criticism, blaming, miscommunicating, withdrawing, etc.).

However, there is one powerful and overarching concept that helps explain why this happens, and it offers a fascinating insight into all areas of our lives, not just relationships.

When we first learned this concept at our Conscious Loving coach training 9 years ago, it was a game-changer for us and forever changed the way we look at things.

It’s called the “Upper Limit Problem,” a term coined by one of our wise relationship teachers, Dr. Gay Hendricks, and he writes about it in his book, The Big Leap.

As we mentioned, we humans don’t have “Upper Limit Problems” only in our relationships. They show up all over the place.

For example, have you ever had any of these experiences…

– You are eating really healthy and feel energized and wonderful…and then you find yourself overeating foods you know won’t make you feel good.

– You’ve gotten good sleep and feel rested…and then you find yourself staying up late and returning to that familiar feeling of tiredness.

Woman working late

– You’re feeling on top of things and balanced in life…and then you find yourself procrastinating, overcommitting, or back to feeling overwhelmed.

– You are feeling happy and good and at peace…and then find yourself just “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” looking for something to worry about, or focusing on what isn’t working.

Some people would describe these common human experiences as self-sabotage.

While we wouldn’t argue with this, we much favor the notion of the Upper Limit Problem and how it explains things.

Here it is in a nutshell…

Your brain (all of our brains!) love, love, loooooove the known. Our minds love certainty.

The level of health, joy, love, connection, peace, success, etc. that you have experienced for much of your life is known — no matter how dysfunctional, unhealthy, or unhappy these areas of life may be.

To your brain, they are at least KNOWN and are, thus, SAFE.

Certainty = safety when it comes to our survival wiring.

Man looking out window

Therefore, when you begin to expand to new levels of…


Your brain can easily have a freakout because this is new…and, thus, scary — no matter how healthy, wonderful, helpful, and good these things are.

In other words, your brain and its circuitry will easily bring you right back down to the level of health, happiness, love, joy, connection, etc. that you are used to — without you even realizing that this is happening.

When we run into an “Upper Limit Problem,” (and we all do!) it usually happens innocently — not because we are trying to limit how good life can be.

Therefore, one of the best ways to counteract your Upper Limit Problem is this:

(1) When things are going well, set the intention that you are going to move beyond your Upper Limit Problem into an expanded state of how good things can be. Or, if you already find yourself hitting your Upper Limit Problem, simply recognize it as such (oops!) and realize this has simply happened because your brain isn’t yet comfy with these new levels of goodness.

(2) Intentionally declare (inside of yourself) that you are going to expand your capacity for how much love, joy, connection, ease, health, success, etc. you are allowing into your life. This is such an important intention to set!

Celebrating couple

Here’s the key:

If we’re not intentional about rising to new levels, we’re going to fall back into wherever we’ve already been.

And we know you want more than that! 🙂


We hope you enjoy playing around with this Upper Limit Problem concept in your relationship, and we’re sending you all our love and support as you expand your capacity for how much loving goodness you allow in (you deserve it!)!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

PS: We were so fortunate to share another phenomenal weekend with 30 couples who signed up to take their relationship to the next level at our Thrive in Love retreat this October. Here’s a post we wrote about it. We warmly welcome you to save the date for our next Thrive in Love retreat coming up Valentine’s weekend, February 15-16, 2020 in Bloomington, IN. People have already started registering, and there is an extra $50 off the early bird rate if you sign up by December 1st (enter code THRIVE50). We would be honored and delighted to have you and can’t wait to share a weekend of deepening love with the amazing couples ready to make their relationship better than ever!

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