Biological situations involving conflict can create arms race situations with repeated fixations of different functional variants, producing selective sweeps and lowering neutral diversity in genome regions linked to the functional locus. However, they can sometimes lead to balancing selection, potentially creating long coalescent times for sites with functionally different variants, and, if recombination occurs rarely, for extended haplotypes carrying such variants. We tested between these possibilities in a gynodioecious plant, Plantago lanceolata, in which cytoplasmic male‐sterility factors conflict with nuclear restorers of male fertility. We find low mitochondrial diversity, which does not support very long‐term coexistence of highly diverged mitochondrial haplotypes. Interestingly, however, we found a derived haplotype that is associated with male fertility in a restricted geographic region, and that has fixed differences from the ancestral sequence in several genes, suggesting that it did not arise very recently. Taken together, the results suggest arms race events that involved “soft" selective sweeps involving a moderately old‐established haplotype, consistent with the frequency fluctuations predicted by theoretical models of gynodioecy.