Conflict Within Marriage

Written by: Meaghan Highway, LMHC

“Imagine a wall that’s green on one side and red on the other. You stand on one side and only see green. I stand on the other side and only see red. We’ll both be right about the color we see, even though we disagree on what color the wall is. Being able to realize that the other person has a valid point, even if you disagree with it, that’s maturity.” (Oliver Gaspirtz)

Being married can be one of the most joyous and most maddening undertakings we ever experience. Conflict within marriage is a given, because we are constantly trying to combine two separate lives into one harmonious relationship. Sometimes, we may see our relationship melding smoothly, like ingredients for a cake being whirred together into one sweet finish. Other times, we may look askance at it all, feeling as though there is no unity to be had – we’re oil and water! We can take comfort in the fact that conflict within marriage is normal – and yet, normal is truly something that we can only find on a dryer switch. Just because conflict is normal, does not mean that it’s exempt from being unique – we each bring with us our own background, views and expectations. As the green wall / red wall quote above reminds us, in marriage there are two sides to every story – and often, we struggle with acknowledging the differences while finding our commonalities. Here are three things to mull over when confronted with conflict in marriage:

  1. When is a good time to discuss this? Is there a certain time of day or day of the week when conflict arises the most easily? (For example, do arguments ignite after work? Before work? While dropping the kids off at school? Running to an evening meeting?) Try to notice if there is a trend in when the arguments are most likely to show up, and call your spouse’s attention to this. Perhaps mention (in a calm moment), “It seems to me like we always argue right when I get home from work. If there is something that needs to be discussed, can we wait until after the kids are in bed?” Purposely creating distance between the time when an argument normally explodes and when a discussion could happen more effectively could be a good first step in cultivating calm.
  2. What can I do? This question also puts an argument back into perspective – we can’t control other people, but we can control ourselves. Focusing on how we can help the relationship as a whole and our spouse specifically can leave us feeling empowered and ready to combine forces, rather than always being left butting heads. Listening and improving communication is always a good first start, but there are often concrete steps that can be taken to improve the marriage overall. (For some, this might be posting a sticky note on their wallet to take out the garbage before work. For others, it might be literally scheduling onto the calendar a time to make love.)
  3. Should we see a professional? Unfortunately, going to therapy still sometimes has a stigma – as though if attending some sessions means that we’re ‘beyond hope’ or ‘crazy.’ But this couldn’t be further from the truth – going to therapy can actually be a sign of great inner strength and a display of the combined hope that you and your spouse have for your relationship. Seeing a licensed professional can give you tools to work on your marriage that you may not have considered, as well as a plethora of suggestions for you to try and implement together in between sessions. When we go to a doctor (aside from an annual physical), we go with the hope that they can help diagnose what isn’t feeling well, and provide some type of treatment to ease the pain – and good therapy can help do this for your marriage, as well.

Above all, keep in mind that God is in your corner – He wants your marriage to grow and flourish, and will be with you every step of the way.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to educate, inform and entertain. This does not represent psychotherapy, therapeutic assessment, or any other form of therapeutic intervention. This should not be used as a substitute for consultation and treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you have questions related to the material contained in this site please contact CCM or a licensed mental health professional of your choice.

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