Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marriage and Conflict

Avoiding conflict is not as healthy as dealing with conflict and working through it. Some people in their marriages assume that if they avoid conflict they are working on developing a healthy marriage because they aren't fighting. But sometimes you need to fight because if you don't fight you do not solve anything. That does not mean that all fights are good--a person that is adversarial, cruel and picks fights is no better than one who avoids a fight to keep the peace. But sometimes "fights" done in the right way in love, with gentleness and concern need to happen to hammer out an issue.

I found this helpful:
The number one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict.
What's sad is the reason couples avoid conflict is because they believe it (conflict) causes divorce. It's like the cartoon where the couple explains to the marriage counselor," We never talk anymore. We figured out that's when we do all our fighting."

Here is an important chunk from the article:
Successful couples are those who know how to discuss their differences in ways that actually strengthen their relationship and improve intimacy. Successful couples know how to contain their disagreements – how to keep them from spilling over and contaminating the rest of their relationship.
While it's true that we don't get married to handle conflict, if a couple doesn't know how – or learn how – to fight or manage their disagreements successfully, they won't be able to do all the other things they got married to do.
Put another way, it's hard to take her out to the ball game if you're not speaking. Couples are often so determined to avoid disagreements that they shut down – quit speaking, quit loving.
Couples need to know what the research has found: that every happy, successful couple has approximately ten areas of "incompatibility" or disagreement that they will never resolve. Instead, the successful couples learn how to manage the disagreements and live life "around" them – to love in spite of their areas of difference, and to develop understanding and empathy for their partner's positions. 
The divorce courts have it all wrong. "Irreconcilable differences" – like a bad knee or a chronic back – are not a reason to divorce. Instead, they are part of every good marriage. Successful couples learn to dance in spite of their differences. They gain comfort in knowing they know their partner, know which issues they disagree on and must learn to manage. 
They also understand that if they switch partners they'll just get ten new areas of disagreement, and sadly, the most destructive will be about the children from their earlier relationships.
In addition to skills for handling disagreements, we also have to learn to welcome and embrace change. When we marry we promise to stay together till death us do part – but, we don't promise to stay the same.That would be deadly dull. We need skills and confidence to welcome, integrate, and negotiate change along the way.
The last paragraph is an important reminder. Yesterday as a pastor I did a hospital visit and found myself in a room with two couples that had each been married 60+ years. They like me got married at a young age (around 20 years old or so). They talked about how you change as you grow in marriage with your partner. 

But today one can easily find essay which say essentially "don't get married young because you don't know who you are yet-- so as 'you find yourself' you'll change and the marriage won't likely last." To which I say "hogwash." The question is are you willing to change and grow with your spouse. We are not the first generation that has "changed" as we get older. The question is will you change and grow with each other?

A husband and wife have to figure out how to live together and how to work together. To some extent each couple will have unique differences that they've figured out "work for them." On the other side there are some basics that are common to all healthy marriages. Especially important is husband's loving their wives and wives respecting their husbands. Within this framework you have to learn how to fight and handle conflict. It can be done and you can build a healthy marriage through it but not necessarily by going around it.

Read the article quoted by going here.

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