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Posts tagged ‘marital conflict’

10 Marriage & Relationship Busters

SOURCE:   /PsychCentral

No relationship is perfect and problem-free.

It’s clear that all marriages take work, commitment, and effective communication of needs, expectations and desires. Marriage isn’t hard necessarily, but it becomes harder when people “go stupid.” Essentially, when one or both partners behave out of anger, anxiety, hurt, defensiveness, or maliciousness, the problems escalate quickly.

Overall, there are common issues in most marriages where conflict is higher:

  • One partner is trying to change the other. The more one partner tries to “perfect” the other, the less perfect that person will become as the struggles grow. The truth is that the best you can do is change who you are, your approach to the relationship, and how you respond to your partner. After all, you married them for who they are, right?
  • Talking at – as opposed to talking with – your partner. Simply talking does not translate into effective communication. Constant complaints, repeated criticisms, playing the victim, trying to create guilt, yelling, telling your partner what to do, etc., are not communication openers. At best, they are communication roadblocks and barriers. Listening (i.e., being present to the other) and speaking with intent are two of the deepest forms of intimacy in any relationship.
  • Loss or decrease in emotional and sexual intimacy. A partner who is emotionally absent, disengaged, and not caring or concerned can lead to a drop in emotional and sexual intimacy.
  • Loss of focus and awareness or being mindful of your partner due to issues with finances, in-laws, a newborn, work pressures, and a mental health condition or addiction can lead to emotional distancing and loss of connection.
  • Emotional or physical affair. Even a micro-affair (when one partner behaves in secrecy and deception with someone outside the relationship) can lead to damage and long-term strain on a relationship. Most affairs begin harmlessly, but soon escalate.
  • Difficulty letting go of the past or not forgiving past behaviors. Many marital and relationship problems stem from one or both partners refusing (even if subconsciously) to let go of the past. Letting go does not mean ignoring or sweeping issues under the rug; it does mean not carrying these issues into future arguments.
  • Finances. Different values and spending habits occur in 10-20% of relationships. One partner wants to save, the other feels compelled to spend. One partner wants to spend the annual bonus on a new car, the other on the kitchen or living room.
  • Ignoring the little things that make the relationship special. Not appreciating each other, focusing on work or money or the kids, not attending to the romantic part of the relationship, not listening, and not acknowledging how much you value the other person.
  • Spending too much time and emotional energy plugged in to social media and technology in general, at the expense of spending time with your partner.
  • Constantly looking for the negative or for what is not working. This is similar to high criticism, but more generalized in that the partner approaches the relationship with a negative attitude, is emotionally dry and vacant, and through this lens sees mostly what is wrong in the relationship.

6 Arguments All Married Couples Have

SOURCE: Michael Fulwiler — The Gottman Institute

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman lists the 6 most common areas of marital conflict. He explains that, “even in very happy and stable marriages, these issues are perennial.” We will touch on these six types of arguments, the task they each represent for a marriage, and offer practical advice for addressing the solvable disagreements they often trigger.

Remember that all couples argue, and that’s okay. We grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.

1. Work Stress


The Task: Make your marriage a place of peace.

The Solution: Acknowledge that at the end of a long, stressful day you may need time to yourselves to decompress before interacting with each other. If you bring your work stress home, it will sabotage your marriage. Build time to unwind into your daily schedule. Once you’re both feeling relatively composed, it’s time to come together and talk about each other’s day.

2. In-Laws


The Task: Establish a sense of “we-ness,” or solidarity, between partners.

The Solution: Side with your spouse. Establish your own family rituals, values, and lifestyle and insist that in-laws respect them. An important part of putting your spouse first and building this sense of solidarity is not to tolerate any contempt toward your spouse from your parents.

3. Money


The Task: Balance the freedom and empowerment money represents with the security and trust it also symbolizes.

The Solution: What’s most important in terms of your marriage is that you work as a team on financial issues and that you express your concerns, needs, and dreams to each other before coming up with a plan. You’ll each need to be firm about items that you consider nonnegotiable. Itemize your current expenditures, manage your everyday finances, and plan your financial future. If you’re having trouble, see a financial planner.

4. Sex


The Task: Fundamental appreciation and acceptance of each other.

The Solution: Learn to talk to each other about sex in a way that lets you both feel safe. The goal of sex is to be closer, to have more fun, to feel satisfied, and to feel valued and accepted in this very tender area of your marriage. A major characteristic of couples who have a happy sex life is that they see lovemaking as an expression of intimacy but they don’t take any differences in their needs or desires personally.

5. Housework


The Task: Create a sense of fairness and teamwork.

The Solution: The simple truth is that men have to do more housework. Maybe this fact will spark a husband’s enthusiasm for domestic chores: Women find a man’s willingness to do housework extremely erotic. When the husband does his share to maintain the home, both he and his wife report a more satisfying sex life than in marriages where the wife believes her husband is not doing his share. However, the quantity of housework is not necessarily a determining factor in the housework = sex equation. Two other variables: whether the husband does his chores without being asked, and whether he is flexible in his duties in response to her needs.

6. A New Baby


The Task: Expand your sense of “we-ness” to include your children.

The Solution: In the first year after baby arrives, 67% of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction. Lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, juggling mothering with a job, economic stress, and lack of time to oneself, among other things. Why do the other 33% sail through the transition unscathed? What separates these blissful mothers from the rest has everything to do with whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.

How To Get A Win-Win Solution In Conflict

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Some conflicts are solvable and temporary and others may be more chronic, but when possible, look for a solution that both parties can live with and feel good about.

For those who are married, sometimes we misunderstand biblical headship and submission to mean that the husband always gets his way in every conflict or disagreement. God never describes headship in that way. In fact, Jesus sternly cautions those in authority over others not to misuse their positions for selfish purposes (Mark 10:42-43). Godly headship always leads to sacrificial servant-hood rather than demanding one’s own way.

The following steps make resolving conflict in a mutually agreeable way more likely.

1.  Clearly define the problem:

To work together toward a mutually agreeable solution, whether it is a marital conflict or a disagreement among family members or friends, you must define the problem you’re working to solve. For example, Dana felt angry because Ted spent money without telling her, but why was that a problem? Was it because she didn’t think that was fair or was it because she didn’t like what he bought? Dana needed to think about why Ted’s spending was a problem for her. As she looked at the situation more closely, she saw that the problem was what happened to her budget when Ted overspent. As Dana defined her problem and communicated directly how she felt and what she wanted, she may have said, “Ted, I don’t like it when you spend money without telling me first. It throws our budget off and then I’m scrambling to find money to pay the bills. I’d like you to talk with me before you make a purchase over fifty dollars.”

2.  Respectfully ask for what you want/need to solve the problem: 

Dana defined the problem and asked Ted directly for the changes she wanted him to make. She told him how she felt without assaulting his character with ugly words like, “You’re so irresponsible. How could you be so selfish?”

3.  Listen carefully:

As Dana listened, Ted told her he felt like a child being given an allowance. He worked hard and didn’t like Dana’s tight control over what he could or could not spend.

4.  Aim for a Win/Win: 

When you purposefully look for a solution that is good for both people rather than trying to win the argument, you are much more likely to end up with a win/win solution. To accomplish this, Dana needed to show respect and consideration for Ted’s feelings and a willingness to work with him to find a mutually acceptable solution to her problem of not having sufficient money to pay bills as well as his problem of feeling like a child with a controlling mom. Ted also needed to be respectful of Dana’s desire to be a good steward of their finances and not be short of funds to pay the bills. They must negotiate and compromise to come up with solutions that meet both of their needs. Sometimes this feels like very hard work. It is, and this work is what builds better and closer relationships.

This is the kind of work that allows my husband and me to go on vacation even though our preferences are very different. We talk about how we will spend our time together, how much money we want to spend, and what’s important, being considerate of each other’s desires, so that at the end of the vacation we’ve both had a good time.

Unsettled Spats –> New Idea

SOURCE:  Keith Gatling/Kyria

Unsettled Spats

When their arguments were going nowhere, Keith and Cheryl Gatling knew they needed to find a way to resolve their squabbles.

Keith’s Side: I’m Slow to Respond

Whenever Cheryl and I would disagree about something, she’d insist on talking it out. But when she talked she gave me too much information to process and respond to at one time. I’m an analytical kind of guy. I need time to think over things before I respond with a half-formed thought I may have to take back later, or say something I could have phrased a little more clearly.

With so much information coming at me quickly, I just couldn’t get my thoughts together to respond the way I needed and she wanted. As a result, during these discussions, I usually just sat there saying little and feeling stupid because I couldn’t answer her back immediately.

Invariably, after I’d had a chance to think about what Cheryl had said, I’d actually have some good responses. But that might not be until the next day. By then, it was too late—as if I were simply “dredging it up again.” Besides, even if I did bring up my good responses, Cheryl would only end up throwing more information at me than I could handle, all over again.

After a few years this got to be annoying. It bothered Cheryl that I never said much when we argued. And it annoyed me that by the time I figured out what I wanted to say, it was too late to say it without causing trouble again. Something had to change.

Cheryl’s Side: I Wanted Resolution

Keith and I rarely had conflict while we were dating. We had so many common interests. We were always doing something fun together—concerts, dancing, church, day trips.

When we married, we weren’t prepared for the work involved in hammering out the details of living together. We began to argue, as I said jokingly, “like two rams butting heads.” Our arguments were probably similar to those of most newlyweds learning to negotiate housework, sex, time management—and whether or not to reuse the towels after one shower. But what drove us both crazy is that our “discussions” never seemed to resolve anything. We had the same arguments over and over. When an old issue would return, both of us would think, Not the towel thing again! We both had such strong feelings that we weren’t able just to let things drop. A sense of futility started to creep in. Were we doomed to butt heads forever?

Our strong feelings were part of the problem. Each of us not only had strong opinions on the topic of towels (and every other subject), we also had intense feelings about how to argue. When Keith would express dissatisfaction with something, I interpreted that as his attacking me, and I rushed to justify myself. When I didn’t think he was “getting it,” I kept trying to find new ways to explain my reasoning.

But the more I explained, the more I saw Keith shut down and withdraw from the argument, which made me even more frustrated! I felt as though he wasn’t hearing me or even trying to understand my point of view.

What Keith and Cheryl Did

One day after another fruitless discussion, Keith sat down and wrote an e-mail message to Cheryl, putting down all his thoughts on the subject. He took the time to make sure they were clear, thorough, and exactly what he meant. He sent the e-mail to Cheryl’s account and asked her to read it. He left the room while Cheryl read. She replied by e-mail. He wrote again. She replied. And soon they were communicating, not merely talking at each other.

E-mail became a tool that helped both of them. Keith and Cheryl have separate computers and separate accounts, and they both check their e-mail frequently, so it’s never a long wait before they read their messages.

Keith says, “The wonderful thing about this system is that I was able to write, edit, and rewrite before I pressed the send button. Not only was I able to answer Cheryl point by point, but I could do so without interruption.” He no longer felt at a disadvantage when it came to getting his point across. He also liked that it was harder for his words to be misinterpreted: “She couldn’t accuse me of saying something I clearly didn’t say.”

Cheryl says, “Writing e-mails slowed down the process of arguing enough to remove most of the heat generated by raised voices. I found I was able to concentrate more on the issues and less on my hurt feelings.” As Keith and Cheryl responded to each other’s e-mails, they cited each other’s exact words in quotations, so they both knew they were being heard.

Now that they have a mechanism to resolve conflict, Keith is more confident and Cheryl more relaxed. That has spilled over into their real-live conversations, improving their verbal communication skills. They’ve learned how to wait to talk things out—verbally or by e-mail—rather than try to settle things in the heat of the moment. And the results have been noticeable.

“Keith talks to me much more than he used to,” says Cheryl. “I think he feels safe to express himself. Since I feel less threatened by his opinions, I’m able to let him have his say without overreacting.”

Keith adds, “I’m happy now that when we argue, and I start feeling overwhelmed, I can tell Cheryl I need time to think about everything before giving her an answer. I no longer feel pressured to respond immediately.”

“We both still have strong opinions,” Cheryl says. “But instead of butting heads, we’ve found that our e-mail strategy helps us to resolve our differences in a much more civil manner.”

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