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Chances are if you’ve been married for any length of time, you, at one time or another, have wondered just why it is that you married this person. Unless you are in the very rare minority where conflict just doesn’t occur, this is a question, or at least something close to a question that every married person has asked of themselves.
Are there just two people who are incompatible? Are there differences or obstacles that are too much to overcome? Most likely, no.
I have spoken of some ways to solve marital conflict that have worked well for my husband and I, but what really is at the root of marital conflict?
Let’s spend some time examining the things I’ve learned over the years through seminars I’ve attended, marriage counseling, books I’ve read, and just overall personal reflection.
- I think the most common reason that conflict occurs is because of a misunderstanding. One person didn’t express a desire, a thought, or an event in such a way that the other person understood correctly. Either without realizing that they misunderstood or choosing to not ask clarifying questions, assumptions were just made, and soon after, a conflict arose.
- Another reason for marital conflict is unmet expectations. Oftentimes we expect people to be mind-readers, especially where our spouses are concerned. Sometimes it is without realizing that we have certain expectations, or sometimes these expectations are withheld in order to manipulate and blame the other person, but whatever the reason is for having unmet expectations, they are a breeding ground for conflict.
- Let’s face it, sometimes we are just selfish. If we were a toddler we would have a full-blown temper tantrum about something we wanted. However, as adults we still have tendencies that are selfish in nature, we just get better at disguising our selfishness. When someone is concerned only about themselves in a relationship, you can imagine that disaster will follow.
- At times we form unhealthy relational skills in our family of origin. Perhaps we saw poor communication or conflict resolution skills that were lacking, unhealthy emotions expressed, or completely unrealistic expectations or maybe even abuse in our family of origin. Carrying this baggage into our own marriages makes for plenty of conflict in our own lives.
- When stress, lack of sleep, or financial strain among a whole host of other issues dominate our lives, we are simply not ourselves. Often, we take our stress and emotion out on those who are closest to us, which means that our spouses are right in firing range. If we don’t take care of these things in a healthy way, they can be toxic in our marriage relationship.
- Just as selfishness creates problems, so does defensiveness. Some people are just defensive by nature. Often it is a coping mechanism that was learned somewhere along the way, but being defensive with our spouse is never going to be productive, and it often leads to conflict.
- Ongoing conflict that is never properly contained or resolved makes way for more conflict. This is why developing good conflict resolution skills within your marriage is so important. The Bible passage that speaks of not letting the sun go down on your anger is given for good reason – and this is it. Not properly resolving issues only leads to more anger and issues.
- Not feeling as though we have been heard. In any relationship we long to feel heard and to be validated by the other person, and this is certainly true in a marriage. Often if we don’t feel heard we get angry, we close off, or we get even more demanding as a way of dealing with feeling misunderstood and even unloved. Learning good communication and listening skills is essential within a marriage for this reason.
- Old wounds that have not been healed. If your spouse has hurt you in some way in the past and you have not truly forgiven them, resentment will eventually take over. This is a roadblock to moving forward and to having a healthy relationship. Learning to truly forgive one another is key to avoiding conflict unnecessarily.
- Not being able to keep one’s emotions and behaviors in check – also known as a lack of self control. Whether this is something one spouse is doing or both spouses are doing, if we are not able to act in a mature and self-controlled way, everything is cause for conflict.
The next time conflict creeps into your marriage that makes you wonder what in the world you are doing, try to assess what is at the heart of the matter. Being able to accurately diagnose what the issue is means we can begin to deal with it, which means we can work towards overcoming it. More times than not, incompatibility is not the issue, but one of these 10 common issues is the culprit.
Take time to reflect and repair the shortcomings that so many of us face throughout our married lives. You, and your spouse will be so glad you did!