By Ruth Purple
Marital conflict is an unavoidable element of any marriage. A marital union that has not been afflicted by discord is like a teabag that has not been dipped in hot water—you really don’t know how strong a tea it would make to make. While conflict is often seen negatively, not all conflicts are detrimental.
In the work environment, for example, clashes in opinions allow two people to see things from the other’s point of view, resulting in a fresh perspective. This leads to a dialogue that provides a venue for brainstorming which, in turn, could lead to resolution of the disagreement. Change can take place, and with it, growth.
Similarly, marital discord is essential to keep the marriage from stagnating. The manner in which a couple handles dissension spells the difference between a shaky marriage and a sturdy one. What are some constructive ways to approach marital conflict? First, recognize that your spouse is a unique individual with a different set of values, needs, styles, perceptions, and goals.
When some of these are not met, dissatisfaction sets in; dissatisfaction, when not addressed, is a breeding ground for quarrelsome thoughts. Whenever a conflict arises, perceive it as your partner’s way of communicating his or her discontent. Strive to see beyond the tantrum and really listen to what is being said.
By doing this, you gain an understanding of the situation and avert irreparable damage caused by fighting fire with fire. Second, let the steam out. While mulling it over can be helpful in organizing your thoughts and expressing them better, letting conflict simmer for too long is just asking for trouble.
A pot left on the stove, even on the lowest of fire, will eventually boil over and the resulting spillage may burn seriously. A helpful strategy is to set an agreed moment to sit down together and tackle the problem. On the other hand, take care not to let every single differences in opinion escalate into discord—that would just be a waste of precious time and effort.
Third, do not bury it. Most women—ok, some men too—take the silent treatment into new depths. They loathe confrontation and would rather wallow in their resentment preferably in the sanctuary of the marital bed. Asking them what the matter is will only be met with a blistering “nothing”, or worse, dagger looks.
It would be best for the reasonable spouse to let a ‘tomb-er’ lie in the grave for a while; any effort to draw her out will prove futile if she is not ready to be resurrected. After a while, try coaxing her out with little acts of kindness—a cup of tea usually does wonders.
Fourth, learn the art of compromise. Giving up the prerogative to be always right is better if it means harmony between spouses. When you take time to really listen to your spouse, you might be astonished to find that his point of view is just as valid as your own.
Seeing things from a different angle can foster new ideas and makes you more receptive to various ways of resolving the issue at hand. So, now and again, try getting off the moral high horse—you may just like the view from the ground. Last, resist the temptation to be a chronicler.
It is so easy to resort to mucking around with the muddy past. Nit-picking on your spouse’s previous shortcomings will only complicate matters and postpone resolution of the current marital conflict. Stick to the problem at hand, seek to resolve it, and once resolved, put it in the bin—reduce but don’t recycle.
As we can see, conflicts can do good for a marriage. Handled right, it can cultivate honesty and understanding between spouses which deepen the relationship. So, the next time you feel like boiling over, boil the kettle instead and see how strong a tea your marriage makes.
Ruth Purple is a Relationship Expert who has been successfully coaching individuals and couples in their relationships. You can get more info from Ruth at http://www.relazine.com