The Benefits of Conflict in Marriage Every relationship, no matter how perfect, deals with conflict. Use these concepts to allow conflict to benefit your marriage in the long-term. BY DENISE J. CHARLES
Once you embrace conflict as an act within humanity you will be able to grasp a deeper understanding of the issue.
“ We fear rejection as a consequence of our honesty, or our fear of exposure forces us to hide behind anger and a false sense of bravado.”
Many of us run from conflict. It just seems to be a part of the human psyche. When we don't agree with an issue, sometimes we skulk away to fume and fuss privately instead of confronting the issue head on. Many of us would never admit that we fear standing up for ourselves because to be bold, strong and assertive is politically correct. This is what is expected of us as well-adjusted adults, so we like to claim these traits as our own.
In real life, however, speaking what's on our mind gets a bit more complicated. Some of us can vacillate inconsistently between cowardice and bravado, others can become onerous, aggressive and downright nasty while still others will run away with their tail between their legs. And this is the issue with conflict; we tend to go to extremes in our response. Either we are holding on to our point of view for dear life, or we are surrendering our right to be heard out of fear.
In many instances fear, in fact, dictates and influences each of these extreme reactions. We fear rejection as a consequence of our honesty, or our fear of exposure forces us to hide behind anger and a false sense of bravado. We tend to feel more in control and less like victims when we are either avoiding issues or overreacting to them. So how do we handle marital conflict? Two separate individuals often with independent points of view must now learn to compromise, draw on each other’s strengths and allow conflict to push their relationship to a new place of growth.
Sounds really great on paper, but how do we practically learn to live with conflict and use it for our relationship's benefit? Perhaps beginning with an understanding of these core concepts, might help.
Understand the principle of relationship: Relationships are really about trying to relate in a figurative "ship." In marriage, obviously, our "ship" is our marriage journey. Hopefully, we share with our spouse the common goal of sailing the wide ocean of life experience together, where the wind and waves don't destroy us, but actually drive us closer together. In practical terms, this analogy simply underscores that we should share common expectations and goals. If we have as our basis a core understanding of what is really important to us both; when we know that where our marriage is concerned we are both on the same page, then we need not fear conflict.
Accept that some conflict is inevitable: Because conflict is not a barometer of our love, devotion or compatibility, when it occurs we can simply embrace it for what it is; an aspect of our humanity. There is no need to become personal or to hold grudges because we can accept that a conflict is just the out-working of our individuality or of our different perspectives.
Allow conflict to stretch us from our comfort zone: Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and never grow individually because we are content to see life only through our own lens. We can be self-obsessed to the point where we believe that our way is the only way and this makes us unwilling to compromise. Stepping away from our tunnel vision pushes us to embrace another perspective or at least to respect it even if we don't agree.
Learn to listen between the lines: Depending on the nature of our fight, conflict can sometimes expose our hurts and insecurities. Read the script beneath the argument. Is your spouse expressing pain over some past issue, trying to punish you, or attempting to assert himself/herself after feeling neglected or invisible? Sometimes the issue is not the issue and we have to open our eyes to understand what is really taking place. This should hopefully allow us to feel greater empathy and open the way for meaningful dialogue.
Redefine our relationship through conflict: Conflict is not beneficial if it does not prompt us toward lasting change. This does not mean agreeing constantly about everything, but should mean being more gracious and accepting of our spouse's individuality. This will hopefully create the context for us to share how we really feel about an issue, without fear of rejection. Respecting differences is about giving each other space to be who we are, but this also dovetails wonderfully to move our marriage to a new place of understanding.