Listen to Al as you read along
When two people join forces so totally that they merge every aspect of their lives as we do in marriage, conflict is inevitable. At first, conflict is surprising and upsetting. It is surprising because we thought that the feeling of love would enable us to overlook anything just to be with our beloved. It is upsetting because it makes us aware and afraid that we could possibly lose at love, like so many.
Without an understanding of conflict, its causes, solutions and even benefits, we can fear it and conflict can cause us to make unhealthy compromises. With understanding, we learn that conflict can awaken us to our differences and that we can actually use it to learn each other and motivate us to make healthy compromises. This article will discuss how conflict makes us aware of differences, how it motivates us to make healthy adjustments or abandon our mate and how resolving conflicts can help us fully accept one another.
Awareness of Differences
Most marriages go through an initial honeymoon period where our differences are overlooked and conflict is avoided at all costs. We are willing to forgo our own needs to protect the feeling of love we have and willing to sacrifice for our beloved. As our marriage progresses, the honeymoon passes and our differences become more important. Rather than seeing conflict as bad, we need to understand that conflict is how we grow.
Marital conflict is the way that we discover that differences exist between us and how we become aware that changes need to be made. Conflict exposes hidden differences and brings to light areas where we both need to grow and change our thinking. Our mate’s complaints are often how we come to know how they really feel about an issue. Knowing his/her true feelings is necessary for true intimacy. Conflict, if handled properly is actually the road to intimacy. If conflict is handled improperly, it is the road to withdrawal and separation.
Adjustment or Abandonment
Conflict exposes differences and issues requiring change and healthy compromise. When we become aware that problems exist, we have to choose whether we are willing to change for the sake of the relationship or if we will refuse to make compromises. When healthy people in marriage realize that some of their attitudes, manner of speaking or behaviors are causing difficulty for their partner, they are willing to eliminate or make adjustments to accommodate them. When both parties are willing to make these sacrifices for the sake of the relationship, they can grow together and increase the bond of love. On the other hand, when one or both of them are unwilling to make changes or modify behaviors, the relationship will turn toward bitterness and they will abandon the love bond. Marital conflict can be used as a means of learning about one another and making adjustments for one another or it can be the means of abandoning one another even if the couple stays together. It is not conflict that causes marital distress, it is the way it is handled and the willingness to accommodate your partner’s needs that determines whether conflict is good or bad for your marriage.
Accepting your Partner
Some things about your husband or wife are too deeply ingrained to easily change. We are born with our personality and temperament and these cannot be totally changed. The influence of parents and the way they raised us is not easy to modify either. There are some things that each of us bring into our marriage that we simply have to accept about our mate. Even our mate cannot seriously change these core characteristics about themselves. Conflict helps us sort out those issues where change can happen and in these areas, compromise is the way of adjustment. In areas where change is less likely to happen, it is necessary to accept them the way they are and stop asking them to change. If one person is quiet and reserved but the other is outgoing and friendly, conflict will surely happen. Yet, personality is an inborn trait and cannot be changed, only modified.
This core idea in this brief discussion is that marital conflict is unavoidable because all of us are different. We can use conflict to instruct us about how to use our differences to benefit everyone or we can use conflict as an excuse to bail out and move on. Conflict exposes and makes us aware, it motivates healthy adjustments or abandonment and when we realize that some things about our partner or us won’t change, it can help us accept them the way they are. Conflict itself is neither good nor bad, it is how we use it that makes it a help or hindrance to marriage.
My final suggestion is one that I use in my own life to keep me on a positive track. I believe in God and trust what God has said in the bible to help me see a positive future. If you have found God for yourself or think it is time for you to make things right with God, there are links in this website that discuss how to go about entering a relationship with God. My prayers are with you.