Years ago, a close friend of mine, who had what looked like a strong marriage, was proudly telling me “We never argue!” Meanwhile, his wife was telling Susan “We argue all the time!” This was confusing. Which one was right? And which perspective was healthy? Is relationship conflict in marriage good or bad? Or both?
What we have come to understand in our 28 years of marriage and 26 years of work at Family First are two clear truths:
1. Conflict is not necessarily a sign of marital failure.
2. The absence of conflict is not necessarily a sign of marital success.
HOW we handle conflict is more important than whether we have conflict in marriage. Conflict will happen. Handling conflict well can strengthen your marriage, and handling it poorly can devastate it.
Handling conflict well can strengthen your marriage, and handling it poorly can devastate it.
Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not suggesting we start picking fights with our spouses. In the book of James in the Bible, it says that our own selfish desires are at the very heart of the fights we tend to pick with each other. Some causes of conflict, if they can be managed well, make us healthier like managing our sometimes unrealistic expectations.
We should welcome the opportunity that comes with conflict in marriage to grow and to learn together by handling conflict in a healthy way. Here are some things to remember the next time you and your spouse have a dispute.
Conflict Avoidance has the power to:
- Lead to an inability to disagree or debate issues
- Short-circuit mature conversations
- Damage important family decisions with big ramifications
- Build a weak marriage where spouses become incapable of confession, repentance, and forgiveness.
- Teaches bad relationship habits to your children.
- Builds stress in the marriage relationship
- Drive a spouse to feel compelled to share their frustrations with outsiders, and that can lead to emotional and physical affairs.
- Builds unfair expectations of perfection.
Conflict Resolution helps to:
- Address serious issues instead of stuffing them down until someone explodes
- Head off the building up of unhealthy anger and bitterness
- Develop interpersonal skills needed for other areas of marriage and family life, like parenting, extended family issues, and conflicts from outside the family.
Conflict is not easy, but working through it together is worth the effort. If you have specific issues dealing with the trickiness of handling conflict with a passive-aggressive spouse, click here. If you would like some questions about marriage conflict to ask your spouse, check out the couples section of our app, Q & U.
What are some ways you’ve seen healthy conflict resolution, or the lack of it, impact marriages in your life? Share your insights below.