When you’re saying “I do”, it’s with the hope that the “happily ever after” you’ve dreamt up will now come to pass. However, when the nasty fights eventually roll around and you realize that sharing a roof with the person you just fought with can drive you mad, understanding how to resolve conflict in a marriage is a must.
The causes of conflict in a marriage are influenced by how each couple operates. One thing that remains common is that all couples fight – even the obnoxious friends you have who always claim otherwise (we’re on to you, Marty and Linda).
In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that arguing in a marriage is healthy. You get to know what’s a dealbreaker and what’s not, and just how much your spouse hates shoes in the living room. With the help of consultant psychologist Jaseena Backer (MS Psychology), who is a gender and relationship management expert, let’s understand how you can deal with conflict in marriage.
Common Causes Of Conflict In A Marriage
As we mentioned, the causes of conflict in a marriage can be as unique as couples themselves. Richard hates how Jolene never rinses her dishes or puts her dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Mariah hates how Jacob always wants to hog down on his food, never even taking the time out to chew.
What leads to problems, however, is when Richard and Mariah both let their emotions take over and turn completely manageable fights into ugly episodes. They fight dirty, and the snarky remarks bring about more problems than they intended. It can often signal a lack of respect in the relationship, and that’s exactly why knowing how to resolve conflict in a marriage is essential.
However, before we get to that, it’s important to take a look at the most common causes of screaming matches and name-calling:
1. Unmet expectations
“One of the primary causes of conflict in a marriage is when spouses have expectations from each other but don’t ever convey them to their partners. When you expect someone to do something for or with you, you can’t just keep it inside you and hope they’ll know exactly what you want. As a result, when the needs/wants are not met, it leads to major conflict,” says Jaseena.
Perhaps you expected your partner to split the chores, and they expected you to take care of them. Maybe they assumed you were looking forward to going out on the weekends or that you’d both use the free time to pursue your individual interests. But when one partner’s expectations are diametrically opposite to the other’s assumption, problems take hold.
As you’ll soon find out, understanding how to resolve conflict in a marriage also largely revolves around voicing your expectations and working around them. Only through communication can issues like these be resolved.
Related Reading: 11 Signs You Are In A Codependent Marriage
2. What’s mine is not yours: Money issues
In the initial stages of a new relationship, you don’t really talk much about how you can efficiently manage your finances. The only efficiency you display is on being spendthrifts, only ever thinking about money toward the end of the month.
However, once you’re married, finances go from being an afterthought to something that determines the health of your relationship. “When there’s no openness about how you’re going to deal with finances and what your plan of action is, it often leads to misunderstanding and miscommunication.
“As a result, you’re both bound to get into fights,” says Jaseena. According to a study, financial hardship is one of the major reasons for divorce.
3. Incompatibility under the sheets
“It’s not an issue that’s much talked about, but it can truly define how happy two people are with each other. When one partner’s sexual drive is greater than that of the other, it leads to unmet needs. Perhaps the other person does not comply or is unable to but it’s bound to lead to irritability,” says Jaseena.
Sexual compatibility can so often be the reason for marital conflict and unmet needs. It’s no surprise that unmet needs and sexual dissatisfaction are often cited as the reasons for infidelity as well, so it’s clear to see just how big of a problem this is.
How to resolve conflict in a marriage revolves around understanding exactly where the incompatibility lies, so it’s important to know what you two don’t connect on.
4. Disputes over parenting
It’s something that people do not find out about each other till they’re already parents since nobody asks their partner how they are as a parent (frankly, it’s because most don’t know themselves). “I’ve seen that not agreeing on how you need to parent your child is one of the major causes of conflict in marriage,” notes Jaseena.
Speaking on the subject, dating coach Geetarsh Kaur previously told Bonobology, “I tell all my clients to sit down with their partners before they get married and ask them about how they’d like to approach parenting. Will they be stern or do they have a more lenient mindset?
“At the end of the day, you are also bringing a human being into the world who is going to be a product of your parenting. You wouldn’t want anyone to enter into the world with the baggage of negative family dynamics. People assume that it may be a common relationship problem after a baby is thrown into the mix, but it’s imperative that they have a conversation about it beforehand.”
5. Lack of healthy communication
We get it, understanding how to resolve conflict in a marriage isn’t the easiest thing in the world. However, sweeping an argument under the rug is. It’s a lot more tempting to let something go than to talk about it, which can lead to ineffective communication in most marriages.
Jaseena explains how outside interference can also affect communication within a couple. “When your in-laws or other people start having too much of a say in your dynamic, it can feel like you don’t talk to each other, but let others intervene.”
These are a few of the most common causes of conflict in marriage, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that you’ve fought about something listed above with your partner. What comes now, however, is to understand how to resolve conflicts between husband and wife. Let’s take a look at how you can deal with conflict in marriage.
7 Expert Tips To Resolve Conflict In A Marriage
“I don’t know how to resolve conflict in a marriage, and it often leads to minor fights turning into very, very ugly ones,” notes Macy, adding, “We fought about being late to an event, which somehow led to a fight about how I am as a person and how he could not deal with it. We spend nights apart just because we can’t resolve the small arguments that come up. Everything turns into a big issue, and we end up stonewalling each other.”
When you’re not sure of the steps in resolving interpersonal conflict between husband and wife, it often leads to janky communication. That, in turn, leads to more misunderstandings. Jaseena points out 7 tips on how you can resolve conflict with your spouse, so you don’t end up getting a one-way ticket to the sofa:
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1. State your expectations and listen to theirs
When asked how to resolve conflict in a marriage, Jaseena was quick to answer with, “State your expectations. Make sure you express what you want from your partner, and that you make them feel heard when they tell you what they need. From there, you can begin finding common ground.
“Whether you’re fighting about parenting or finances, the most important thing to do is state what you’re expecting from your partner, and make them understand that you acknowledge what they expect as well. Talk about things like who is going to contribute to what, how you expect to handle the finances or who plays the role of what as parents.
“By discussing your expectations in a relationship, you make sure nothing is left to chance.” Perhaps what’s most important about this way to resolve conflict with spouse is that you make sure you’re not turning the whole thing ugly and that apathy is not your go-to response.
2. Approach communication the right way
Instead of slamming the door open and screaming out, “How DARE you do that to me?”, take a moment to calm down. Understand that screaming and hurling accusations or abuses is not going to do anyone any favors.
Jaseena explains how you must approach communication while understanding how to resolve a conflict between husband and wife. “Have an open mind. When you talk about things like sexual incompatibility, don’t walk into it with a preconceived mindset. Try to listen to your partner’s point of view as well.
“Even if it’s something that’s really bothering you, try not to accuse your partner and point fingers at them. Discuss the conflict at hand, and be willing to look at the bigger picture instead of an isolated incident.”
When figuring out how to resolve conflict in a marriage, one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that effective communication only takes place when you’re not yelling or making sarcastic comments.
3. Take responsibility
When you care more about being right, you’re stating that you care more about winning. You keep a scorecard, and you care more about your partner apologizing to make you feel validated. As a result, you’ll see more resentment in your marriage. Instead, try to focus on reconciliation instead of whose ego is being stroked and whose isn’t.
“In the process of understanding how to resolve conflict in a marriage, it’s important to also learn to own up to your own mistakes. Even if you are convinced of the fact that you didn’t make any, listen to your partner and own up to how you made them feel,” says Jaseena.
4. Stonewalling needs to be avoided at all costs
While it’s tempting to scream out, “You never listen to me. All you do is always look at your point of view”, and storm out, it’s just going to lead to more arguments and problems down the line. Also, don’t use the words “always” and “never”. You’re supposed to talk about the incident that happened, not a generalized view of the person.
Coming back to the point of how to resolve conflicts between husband and wife, know that avoiding all communication because you’re upset is not going to work. It’s basically like expecting them to know all the right things to say, which is only going to lead to more unmet needs.
Whether you look at biblical ways to resolve conflict in marriage or go by what your friend told you the other day, it’s clear to see that there needs to be communication to cultivate any reconciliation.
5. Be willing to compromise
You can set new boundaries in your relationship, talk about an arrangement that benefits you both, or even come up with a tolerable system. But if you sink your teeth in and never let go of the “my way or the highway” approach, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
Be willing to talk about what works for the both of you but make sure your anger isn’t making you demand unrealistic things. While figuring out how to resolve conflict in a marriage, introducing empathy into your relationship is going to help out a lot.
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6. Tackle arguments and lead them to discussions
Name-calling, sarcasm or snarky remarks will cause lasting damage. Another thing you must avoid is jumping to conclusions. For example, when your partner says, “I wish we could talk in a more civil manner”, don’t assume that they’re criticizing the way you speak to them. Perhaps they just genuinely wish you’d both calm down and discuss things appropriately.
“One of the first steps in resolving interpersonal conflict between husband and wife is to get to the root cause of the problem, not to blame each other in a generalized way. Have a conversation without being nasty. The whole point is to reconcile, not to cause more problems,” says Jaseena.
When you both approach it in the right way, you’re bound to reach a conclusion pretty soon. If you were to look at biblical ways to resolve conflict in marriage, you’re probably not going to be asked to scream at the other person, right?
7. Remind each other that you care
When you’re both screaming at each other, calling each other not-so-nice names and when the sarcastic comments don’t stop rolling in, it’s easy to think your partner doesn’t care anymore. When you understand how to resolve conflict in a marriage, you understand that making your partner feel cared for is an utmost priority.
Only once they know that you care about them and they care about you will you both even try to move toward reconciliation and a healthy relationship, instead of focusing on who is “right”. You both wouldn’t be fighting for the future of your relationship if you didn’t think it existed, right?
In the heat of the moment, understanding how to resolve conflict in a marriage is probably something most couples don’t consider. However, to ensure a harmonious union (read: tolerable union), you must try to keep your cool whilst striving toward reconciliation.
If constant arguments and animosity are tarnishing your relationship, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists can help you learn the art of conflict resolution, which will effectively improve your marriage.