Every couple will experience marital conflicts at some point – it’s unavoidable. Likewise, conflicts are not a sign of a bad marriage. However, how couples handle their disagreements separates healthy marriages from unhealthy ones. Therefore, a proactive approach to resolving marital conflict is needed, not simply suppressing differences. I will share proven strategies for resolving common matrimonial conflicts.
What is marital conflict?
Marriage involves cooperating with your partner to develop skills that improve the relationship. Marital conflict is an ongoing disagreement or argument between spouses. Conflicts create tension and incompatibility in marriage. However, when the dispute is handled correctly, it can be a tool for strengthening relationships. The best approach to avoiding marital conflict is prevention.
What causes marital conflict?
The root of most conflicts in marriages is selfishness. When one party insists their self-interest prevails, it harms the marriage relationship. This attitude creates an “I-win” mentality, leaving no room for compromise. It’s a destructive way of thinking and can lead to resentment and bitterness.
Frequently, one person will take on the role of the aggressor. Yet, simultaneously, the other becomes passive – this is the so-called pursuer-distancer dynamic. Therefore, both spouses must recognize this destructive pattern and work together towards change.
Marital conflicts in the five stages of marriage
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship but can often lead to tension and discord in marriages. For a sustainable union, it’s essential to understand conflicts along the five stages of marriage.
- The honeymoon stage of the relationship is when everything is new and exciting. Conflict is minimal because both partners are still trying to please each other.
- The stage of building a life with your partner: As the novelty of the relationship wears off, couples start to argue more frequently. That is usually due to different expectations and frustrations as the partners learn more about themselves.
- The third stage is marked by disillusionment and disappointment. Partners may start withdrawing from each other or engaging in destructive behaviours. At this point, many couples give up on their relationship altogether. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
- The fourth stage is an adjustment. For the majority of couples who continue to live together, they work on their marital friendship by seeking new skills and knowledge. The perspective they gain helps them cope. As a result, they achieve long-term unions with reduced conflicts.
- The final stage is renewal and marital bliss. That is where married partners finally come to terms with their differences and learn how to live together peacefully despite them. This stage can be long and complex, but it’s worth fighting for if you want your marriage to last.
Common Conflicts in marriage
1. Inability to manage marriage finances
Money problems are one of the leading causes of marital disharmony and divorce, so it’s essential to address any financial issues head-on. But unfortunately, most couples argue over bills, debt, spending, and other economic issues.
It’s no secret that money is one of the leading causes of marital conflict. When spouses can’t agree on managing the family finances, it often leads to tension and arguments.
A “negative” way of dealing with conflicts is actively walking away from your spouse during an argument about money. However, it’s important to note that neglecting to handle an issue can be seen as passive and sometimes harmful, so this method should be discouraged.
Tips for resolving financial conflicts in marriage
- Both of you should seek the help of a financial planner or accountant who will consider your situation.
- Decide early in the marriage whether you do budgeting or not, and stick with the plans together.
- Decide whether you will operate a joint bank account to pay your bills. If both partners work, they can each make a periodic financial contribution.
- Scot Pape recommends weekly date nights with your partner to discuss money matters.
2. Conflicting standpoints on the subject of children
Children are often a source of stress in a marriage. Parents may disagree on disciplining their children or what behaviours to tolerate.
It is no secret that there are two very different viewpoints regarding raising children. Some believe children should be seen and not heard. Others think that children should be allowed to express themselves freely. These conflicting ideologies can lead to tension in a relationship as the parents argue about how best to raise their children.
The arguments between parents over how to raise their children often stem from differing ideologies on the matter. For example, one spouse may feel the child should always obey them without question, while the other believes the child should be allowed room to grow and make mistakes. As you might expect, these disagreements can lead to much tension in a relationship!
Tips for handling marital conflicts around children
- Discuss with your partner how you will approach child discipline in your marriage beforehand.
- Be consistent in your disciplining efforts. Avoid making rash decisions during a fit of anger.
- Avoid inflicting physical or emotional pain on your children as much as possible.
- Tailor your child’s discipline to the age of the child. For instance, timeouts are better for younger children, while deprivation of privileges such as screen time is more appropriate for older children.
3. Marital conflict due to a breakdown in communication
If you’re experiencing communication issues with your spouse, don’t worry-you’re not alone. They estimated that up to 70% of all marital conflicts are due to ineffective communication. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help resolve these issues and improve your relationship.
Tips for handling marital conflicts from a breakdown in communication
- Learn good listening techniques
- Show genuine interest in what your spouse says.
- Make good eye contact when you are talking.
- Avoid distractions while interacting with your spouse.
- Avoid surface-level or single-word responses.
4. Conflict from lack of sexual compatibility
Sex is another common source of conflict between spouses – frequency, infidelity, etc.
Withholding sex is a form of abuse that causes marital damage; if this is an issue in your relationship, it’s essential to seek help immediately!
Sexual incompatibility is one of the leading causes of divorce. Therefore, it’s essential to be honest with your partner about your needs and desires to avoid any problems.
Tips for handling marital conflicts around sex
If you’re not happy with your sex life, here are a few things you can do:
- First, talk to your partner about it. Be open and honest about what you want and how to improve things.
- Experiment with different types of sexual activities.
- Make time for each other outside of the bedroom. Spend time talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company without sex.
- Seek professional help if needed. For example, a therapist may be able to help you work through any issues that are causing problems in the bedroom.
- Avoid sabotaging behaviours such as using sex denial as a weapon during marital disagreements with your partner.
- Try understanding your partner’s primary love language and meeting their emotional needs. Doing that will ensure they feel loved and are more likely to reciprocate with intimacy.
- Some people have a high sex drive, while others have a low one. Try understanding your spouse’s sex drive and compromise by finding the “middle ground”.
5. Marital conflicts caused by inlaws and friends
Some friends will help your relationship, while others will hurt it; be careful about the company you keep!
A toxic friend spends time with you, but instead of improving the friendship, they make things worse through their habits.
Time apart can cause couples to become out of sync with each other and lead to a loss of interest in shared activities; try not to spend too much time apart!
Tips for handling marital conflicts around family and friends
- Prioritize your partner above all others.
- Set clear boundaries with families and friends.
- Avoid taking sides with your family and friends in matters concerning your spouse.
- You can seek the help of a marriage counsellor or books.
6. Marital conflicts from unmet expectations
In our marriages, unmet expectations are one of the biggest killers of happiness. Unfortunately, we often have unreasonable expectations for our spouses. We expect them always to know what we’re thinking, never get angry or frustrated, and always be in sync with us. And when they inevitably fail to meet these impossible standards, we become disappointed and resentful.
The root of this problem is that maybe one spouse consistently does more household chores than the other, leading to feelings of imbalance and unfairness.
These types of problems typically stem from unrealistic expectations. If we could learn to manage our expectations better, we would be much happier in our marriages!
Here’s how marital conflicts affect the emotional needs in marriage.
When couples argue, they tend to fall into predictable patterns of behaviour. That is often the result of communication breakdown. When this happens, feelings are hurt, and it can seem impossible to find solutions.
There are four stages of marital conflict: dysfunctional, chaotic, constructive, and mature.
- Dysfunctional means that both partners are not meeting each other’s needs.
- Chaotic is when things spiral out of control and become heated with little resolution.
- Constructive is when both partners meet each other’s needs halfway but still have unresolved issues.
- Finally, maturity is when both partners fully meet each other’s emotional needs and have no outstanding issues between them.
General measures for conflict resolution
Conflict resolution is a skill that requires commitment from both spouses – it’s not something that you learn overnight, nor does it happen by accident—learning how to effectively communicate with each other during times of disagreement or stress. However, the benefits are well worth it.
It’s important not to continue conflict for too long, as it will only cause more problems in the relationship. When tensions are high and rampant emotions, it’s easy to say or do things we’ll regret later. For peace, both parties must be willing to forgive and forget – at least temporarily.
- The dilemma of marital conflict is that one party always wants their way. Neither side can win this way – compromise is necessary.
- Sharing and discussing your interests strengthens the marriage bond tremendously (and you may even find out you have more interests in common than you thought).
- A willingness to sacrifice is necessary for any successful relationship – this applies doubly to marriages! If both spouses are willing to give up a little bit, it goes a long way towards easing tension and creating harmony.
- The best marriage solution is jointly agreed upon by both spouses, not one over the other. That requires humility, love, and a lot of patience.
- Don’t forget to have fun! Laughing together and enjoying each other’s company is key to a lasting relationship.
- Be proactive in resolving conflicts as they arise – don’t let them fester and worsen over time. The wise advice to not go to bed angry with your spouse is apt.
- Seek professional help before your situations get out of hand. There is no shame in getting outside assistance to save your marriage.
- Remember that it takes two people to make a marriage work. Both spouses must be willing to put in the effort necessary for success.
Marital conflicts are inevitable in marriages. The leading cause of most marriage conflicts is selfishness by one or both spouses. For a marriage relationship to improve, both parties must relinquish their self-interests and learn to compromise. It’s difficult for couples to do this, but it is crucial for a strong marriage relationship.
The bottom line is that your marriage is in trouble if you can’t resolve conflicts without resorting to violence or intimidation tactics.
Do you have conflicts in your marriage? Which of the above strategies will you implement today?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for your time.