Resolving Conflict in Marriages

They say that if there is no conflict whatsoever in a marriage, one of the partners isn’t thinking.

Marriage is about the union of two individuals. You can’t expect two people to be in harmony and agreement about everything every time. What you can expect is that two people can disagree and have clashes, even if they are crazy about each other.

Conflict is, in fact, healthy. It shows that the marriage is still a partner of two individuals. When handled right, they can be opportunities for the marriage to grow stronger and deeper. Thus, instead of trying to sweep conflict under the rug, it is healthier to build skills that will help you and your spouse resolve any conflict you will be facing.

There are some negative ways in which to resolve conflicts. These can include:

–          Concession. Giving in to the other person just to get the conflict over with. When one sees conceding as a victory for the other spouse, there will be feelings of resentment and the situation is not really resolved.

–          Denying the conflict. Sweeping the conflict under the rug and pretending it never happened may solve the situation temporarily. But the conflicts will pile up until someone blows up.

–          Withdrawing from the conflict. Responding to the conflict by withdrawing will not solve anything. Withholding your company and your love to your spouse will just deepen the rift, rather than strengthen your bond.

Here are some tips that may help resolve conflicts positively:

–          Think win-win. Marriage is a partnership. It is not a battleground where each one is collecting victories. Your spouse is not the enemy. Go for a solution where both of you can win. Winning the argument may feel good but you will be at the losing end when it comes to your relationship. Aim towards resolving conflict in a way that will strengthen the relationship and build trust and respect. If win-win is not possible, the two of you must be willing to meet halfway or compromise.

–          Ask, don’t make assumptions. Some conflicts are caused by what you believe your spouse has done or because of assumptions regarding the motives. Rather than running a hundred theories in your head about what your spouse did or why he or she did it, it’s best to ask outright. Get some clarification – seek to understand.

–          Listen, not just to words, but to what your partner is feeling. This will help you get insights on the other person’s side. Recognize that when a person is upset, he or she may not be able to effectively convey the issues. Be on the lookout for nonverbal communication such as gestures, tone of voice, facial expression and intensity of your voice.

–          Don’t be historical. Focus on the conflict currently at the table. Avoid the temptation of dredging up past failures or resentments. The path towards conflict resolution does not lie in assigning blame; rather it is in coming up with a solution that works for both of you.

–          Don’t be hysterical. Keep yourself calm so as to keep the ability to express yourself to your spouse effectively. Getting into a shouting match will not resolve any conflict. Do not be aggressive or defensive. Rather, both of you should work to maintain respect for each other, even in the midst of the conflict. When emotions flare up, you may be tempted to hit below the belt and do more damage instead of good while trying to resolve the conflict.

–          Keep your sense of humor. Sometimes, seeing the humor or irony in things can decrease the tension and set the mood for a more constructive dialogue. Be sure to laugh with your spouse, not at your spouse. Sarcasm is also not an effective form of humor.

–          Be ready to forgive. Sometimes, resolving conflict may need letting go of the hurt and anger generated by the conflict. This also involves letting go of the need to punish the partner – this will only add to the problem and may deepen the conflict.

–          Be ready to agree to disagree. There are issues where you two will still have different stands. If both cannot agree on a certain issue, you can agree to disagree about that matter, where both of you can move on.

Sometimes, effectively resolving conflict may need an outside party, like a marriage counselor. This objective third party can help pick out solutions that you and your spouse may not see because you are too close to the situation.

Also, marriage therapy can be a great avenue for you and your spouse to discuss the conflict and resolve it with less drama. The therapist can act as a facilitator and referee. An experienced marriage therapist will also be able to provide you with great conflict-resolution tools.

If you and your spouse are in need of conflict resolution therapy and you are residing in Provo,

Utah, you can look to Dr. Triston Morgan for help. Dr. Triston Morgan holds a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy and holds years of experience in helping couples resolve their conflicts positively and constructively.

In the road towards resolving conflict, we can be reminded of these words from Phyllis McGinley: “In a successful marriage, there is no such thing as one’s way. There is only the way of both, only the bumpy, dusty, difficult, but always mutual path.”


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