By Lynn M. Griesemer
Conflict is a part of marriage. Researchers say that up to 70% of marital disagreements are not likely to be solved. That doesn’t sound too reassuring, but if you consider that many arguments and disagreements stem from different viewpoints and opinions, it helps to know that you don’t need to argue about the same issues for weeks, months or years. Remember the phrase: “agree to disagree?” Sometimes that’s good advice. Couples get into trouble when they argue about the same things over and over or do everything they can to avoid conflict altogether.
Successful marriages aren’t measured by the amount of conflict they have, but on how they resolve their conflicts. And it’s important to distinguish which conflicts are not worth spending energy on and those that are prominent, in need of resolution.
In resolving conflict, you first have to approach it with an open heart and open mind. Next, listen to your partner. Soften your tone when you speak. Look for areas of agreement. In the heat of an argument, we aren’t thinking about common ground – we just want to spew out our point of view, point the finger and blame. Acknowledge that you are both passionate about the issue you’re discussing.
If you constantly avoid conflict, resentment is the likely result. Retaining strong, unexpressed feelings is physically, mentally and emotionally unhealthy. At first glance, it might seem easier to keep the peace by not expressing issues that are likely to cause a confrontation. Confrontations can be uncomfortable and combative. But when husbands or wives keep things inside, what often happens is a slow erosion of the relationship to the point of “withdrawal.” Withdrawal means that one or more partners pulls back from the relationship. There is often little to minimal talking. Issues aren’t raised, issues aren’t resolved and may hang around like unwanted carpenter ants. Don’t look the other way. Acknowledge the ants and do something about it.
Marriage is all about teamwork. Promise yourself that you will not contribute to escalating the argument. “Pick your battles” carefully and when you do enter a battle, don’t let anger be your guide. Be respectful and considerate and listen to your spouse’s point of view. If you insist on being self-righteous and closed to hearing new information and possible solutions, you will stay on a Merry-Go-Round of Conflict. And that is not a fun ride.