Most couples experience conflicts in their marriages. This is not usually a bad thing in itself, unless of course it occurs nine times out of ten.
Conflicts can either benefit or destroy a marriage, depending on how frequently they occur and how they are handled by both parties.
According to Harriet B. Braiker, “Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is not the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems.”
What is Conflict?
One definition of conflict by the Merriam-Webster dictionary says it is “a state or condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony”.
As much as conflicts in marriages are normal, and can work for the betterment of the marriage, there is still great danger in having constant conflicts in one’s relationship. Some of the dangers are stated below:
- It fosters distrust and breeds bitterness
- Doubt sets in; one or both parties begin to think they have made a mistake in marriage
- It increases unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety among the couples
- Constant conflicts can lead to either the wife or husband being depressed
- More negativity shows up in the conversation with the couple
- It can lead to separation and even divorce, which none of them might have intended from the beginning
So, how do you resolve constant conflicts in your marriage?
In discussing this, I would like us to first examine the exit-voice-loyalty-neglect model developed by the researchers Rusbult and Zembrodt in 1983.
This model shows us that spouses can respond to conflict in a positive or negative way, and in either an active or passive manner.
Observe the following:
Exit: Walking away from a partner during a conflict. This shows an active/negative response.
Voice: Openly discussing the conflict and attempting to resolve it, reflects an active/positive approach.
Loyalty: When you hope that the partner will work alone to solve the problem. This reflects a passive/positive manner of resolving the conflict.
Neglect: Ignoring the negative event, reflects a passive/negative way to deal with conflict.
From the above, we can see that the best approach to dealing with conflicts is the Voice, which is active and positive.
You can also resolve constant conflicts in the following ways:
1. Be swift to hear and slow to speak
We are able to better resolve our conflicts if we listen a lot more than we speak. When you are swift to hear and listen, you are able to view the matter objectively before responding.
Christine Toda advises this, “Listen with your mouth closed and your heart open.” Good advice if you ask me.
2. Seek first to understand
This is another powerful way of resolving constant conflicts in marriage. “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” It’s the 5th Habit in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Seeking first to understand your partner shows that you really care and this reduces the built-up tension and makes you once again view the matter from his own point of view.
It takes courage to do this. So, you be the courageous one.
3. State expectations
What do you really expect from your partner? Most times we think our partners are mind-readers. And we say things like: “He should know why I’m reacting this way.” “How can he be so insensitive?” “How can he be so clueless?”
Yes, he’s clueless! So, why not do him a favour and fill in the gaps. Tell him your expectations and stop pre-judging and misreading him. This would go a long way in resolving conflicts with your spouse.
4. Stonewalling is a no-no
Stonewalling is definitely an unhealthy way to go in any relationship. It does a whole lot of harm to your marriage. When you detach yourself from discussions with your partner or give him the silent treatment, you end up resolving nothing and creating more room for the conflict to fester.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the discussions and you don’t want to just tune out, you can respectfully ask for a time to discuss the matter again, instead of stonewalling him.
5. Seek a compromise
I’m sure you can always find a middle ground if you try. Think of meeting your spouse half-way. Talk about what you can agree on. The keyword here is to talk. When your partner knows you are ready to make a compromise, and not fight him on every issue, he becomes less defensive. This works for better discussions that lead to better results.
6. Stop attacking
“You always…!” “You never…!” Attacking your partner with such words, will only fuel constant conflicts in your marriage. Or, using emotional blackmailing statements like, “If you really care, you will stay with me tonight” or “If you love me, you will come home early,” will only make your partner to close up or get angrier.
It’s not really about winning the war of words with your spouse or any other perceived wars but about trying to resolve issues without damaging the other person. Meaning, “You attack the problem, and not the person.”
7. Speak to God
This is a must for resolving constant conflicts in your marriage. When you pray about your relationship and ask God to show you why you are having so much conflicts in your marriage, He will show you. Applying what He tells you is wisdom and will reduce the frequency of conflicts.
If your marriage is really important to you, and you don’t like the constant conflicts, then why not be the one to take the initiative and do something about it?
If conflicts are becoming really unbearable then you can also seek help from a marriage counselor or therapist. All the best!
Efe Lisa Ifezuo