Effects of Unresolved Conflict on Marital Satisfaction
* * Running head: EFFECTS OF CONFLICT IN MARRIAGE * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The Effects of Unresolved Conflict in Marriage * * Michael Alford * * Liberty University * * * * * * * * * ABSTRACT The debate about marriage is never ending and will never cease as long as people exist. Some view marriage as a key component in life while others consider this a enormous source of stress. In any case generations are affected by marriages and still hold ,despite trend and attitudes a stronghold on what most believe in and familiar with. Today more than ever are satanic influences increasing.
As I Timothy 4:1 ,and II Timothy 3:2 state “ now the spirit speaketh plainly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” and “evil men and deceivers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. ” Since we are constantly trying to explore human behavior and the mind, it seems that to Christians we should look to our understanding of God and the bible as our ultimate source of knowledge. Some would debate should God’s text have the final and authoritative word on matters.
John 3:16 says God wishes his children become spiritually mature and able to make judgments based on the principles of his word, as the person allows the Holy Spirit to guide him into all the truth. I believe the answers and direction to all of our issues in life are in the Bible for our use and is promised to us. This paper discusses the effects of conflict in marriage, and how might these issues be turned around. Views About Marriage According to noted author James Dobson, nothing is more inspirational than the uniting of two unique and divergent personalities in a marital commitment that will last for a lifetime, with God’s help.
Who can comprehend this mysterious bonding that enables a man and woman to withstand the many storms of life and remain best friends to the end of their lives together? This phenomenon is so remarkable that the Apostle Paul, under divine inspiration, chose it to symbolize the unfathomable bond of love between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. We could spend a month or two just thinking about the implications of that wonderful analogy. Unfortunately, a depressing number of today’s marriages end on a less inspirational note. Indeed, Western nations are witnessing a continuing epidemic of dysfunctional relationships.
A recent study done by sociologists at Rutgers University concluded that the institution of marriage itself appears to be dying. 1 I shudder to contemplate what life will be like (and how children will suffer) if the researchers prove to be right! The agony inflicted by divorce cannot be overstated. In a recent report from the National Marriage Project, scholars David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead wrote, “Marriage is a fundamental social institution. It is central to the nurture and raising of children. It is the ‘social glue’ that reliably attaches fathers to children.
It contributes to the physical, emotional and economic health of men, women and children, and thus to the nation as a whole. It is also one of the most highly prized of all human relationships and a central life goal of most Americans. ” Most Americans, according to a recent study, say that having a happy marriage is either the most important or a very important goal in their lives. Yet Americans are becoming less likely to marry, and the chance a marriage will end in divorce is between 40% and 50%. Scholars Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher describe this state of affairs as a “postmarriage” culture.
More and more people simply don’t believe marriage is necessary anymore. More than half of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation, and a majority of young people believe living together is a good idea. Marital Conflict and Interventions What is marital conflict? She wants one thing. He wants another. One activity is important to him. She opposes that one. The smallest things irritate one another. When two people who were deeply in love are finding themselves in opposition to the minute things in life, this is a definite sign that the relationship needs a oil change and tune up.
What has happened to bring about marital conflict like this? Marital satisfaction is determined by several things, one of the most important being conflict resolution (Metz & Epstein, 2002). A survey of this writer’s peers suggest marital stress and conflict evolves out of unmet needs, goals and dreams being shattered ,and desires crushed. When one person in the relationship needs or wants something badly enough, and the other person is unwilling or unable to meet that need, resentment can grow. Then, if one or both persons in the relationship has a sharp tongue, this opens the flood gates for conflict to grow.
Marital conflicts can happen when both persons are behaving in a selfish manner and have little regard for the others feelings. When a self-centered person’s wants are not meet, they become demands. When those demands are not met judgment can set in. The other person is now looked at as being no good and unable to do things right. This selfish person then begins to punish. The punishment is identified in several forms; by silence, by withdrawal, or by open expressions of anger and rage. But he or she punishes, nevertheless. According to Life challenges, the topic of conflict is addressed in the book of James. What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it” (James 4:1-2). He goes on to say that often you do not get what you want because you ask self-centeredly. Rather, a person should bring his legitimate needs before God and ask for wisdom and patience in learning how to manage and deal with the problem.
It is never wise to let one’s own wants become so overpowering and demanding that those wants turn into a virtual idol. An idol demands sacrifice. The marriage will suffer. According to researcher John Gottman, marital conflicts fall into just two categories: solvable and perpetual. Perpetual conflicts show up over and over again. They probably will never disappear from your relationship because they come from fundamental differences in personality: She wants to have a baby but he doesn’t want children; he hates clutter but she is a pack-rat; she wants a religious home but he is an atheist.
Every marriage has conflicts like these. As one psychologist said, when you choose a life partner “you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years. ” Fortunately, you don’t have to solve perpetual problems to have a happy marriage. You just have to learn to handle them with humor and understanding and not let them overwhelm the relationship. While no relationship is perfect, every relationship can be successful if partners find ways to cope with conflicts and keep moving forward..
Gottman recommends six steps to solving your solvable problems: 1. Identify solvable problems. The first step is to figure out if a particular problem is perpetual or solvable. Perpetual problems tend to represent deeper issues within a marriage. Characteristics of a perpetual problem include: 1. The conflict makes you feel rejected by your partner. 2. You keep talking about it together but make no headway. 3. You both become entrenched in your positions and are unwilling to budge. 4. When you discuss the issue, you end up feeling frustrated and hurt. 5.
Your conversations about the issue are completely lacking in humor, amusement, or affection. 6. You feel determined not to budge from your position, and you begin to vilify or belittle each other during conversations about this issue 7. The belittling conversations make you even more stuck in your position, more extreme in your view, and less willing to budge. 8. Eventually you disengage from each other emotionally Effects of Conflict Many couples naively insist that they don’t have to worry about infidelity. “It will never happen to us. ” Unfortunately, infidelity is surprisingly prevalent in our society.
Conservative estimates suggest that between 20 and 25 percent of all Americans will have extramarital sex sometime during their married life (Atkins, Baucom, & Jacobson, 2001). That’s up to one out of four. And the idea that infidelity only happens to bad people in miserable marriages is a myth. It can and does happen, even to good people in happy relationships. Experts are increasingly concerned about two temptation arenas: the workplace and the Internet. One recent study showed that 73 percent of men and 42 percent of women who have extramarital affairs meet their partners at work.
Be extremely careful with workplace relationships According to Dr. Carlfred Broderick, “Perhaps the most important single preventative of adultery is a developed and well-oiled mechanism for dealing with strain in the marriage. ” It is crucial that you talk to your spouse about conflicts. Harboring resentment towards a spouse may lead you to seek sympathy from others, which opens you up to emotional attachments outside the marriage. Faithful marriage partners discuss their frustrations openly and honestly and try to reach fair compromises. * Be clear. Don’t expect your spouse to know what you’re thinking.
If you’re concerned about something, don’t wait for your spouse to notice-tell him or her. * When you want to bring up a problem, don’t assign blame. The following statement, for example, blames the other person and is not likely to end in a happy resolution: “The kitchen is a mess and it’s all your fault! ” Instead, try something like this: “The dishes didn’t get washed and I think it’s your dish day. ” * Don’t store up frustrations. Talk about what’s on your mind. It’s harder to deal with resentment productively when you’ve been stewing over it and growing more and more upset until you’re ready to burst. Compromise. When you have a conflict, sit down and think about what you really need versus what you want and what you are willing to give up. Work out a solution that combines each of your individual needs If you have serious resentment over unresolved conflicts, consider seeking help from a qualified professional marriage counselor. According to researchers, disagreements and arguments crop up in even the best marriages. It’s how conflict is handled that is an important key to marital success or failure.
Current research confirms that poorly handled conflict between married couples can negatively influence mental, physical, and family health. Feelings of anger, bitterness, and unhappiness – sometimes leading to separation and divorce – often result. But couples need not settle for these experiences. Partners can realize, as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, that “marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God” (¶ 1) and that successful and happy marriages “are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (¶ 7).
Such principles, coupled with an understanding of what conflict is, how to recognize it, and how best to manage it, can help spouses use marriage challenges to build rather than harm their relationship. When people hear the word conflict, they often picture something very negative, such as fighting, arguing, bitterness, and anger. However, current research suggests that conflict by nature isn’t negative at all. It is fundamentally the experience of difference between married couples. For example, magnets work according to opposite forces.
One side is positive, the other negative. In this instance, the terms “positive” and “negative” are not synonymous with “good” and “bad. ” They merely identify two different – but complementary – forces. In the same way, couples benefit when they learn to understand conflict as fundamentally difference. Just because couples experience conflict doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. Dealing with differences in opinions, goals, interests, desires, and so on, is a normal part of any marriage relationship. What matters is how couples handle these differences.
In a successful relationship, couples work together to deal with their differences rather than walking away and seeking “greener pastures. ” One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to learn to handle conflicts and disagreements constructively. Here are some ideas for helping you to do just that: * Check for Destructive Interaction Patterns. According to marriage and family professionals, there are many interaction patterns that can harm a marriage and make dealing with differences and disagreements very difficult. Look over the following list and ask yourself how often they occur when you are having a disagreement.
Make your evaluation alone, and then share your notes with your spouse. Resolve together to eliminate that pattern from your relationship. * Harsh Start-ups (Frequently getting started on the wrong foot) * Criticism (Complaints with the intent to attack another person’s character) * Contempt (Criticism conveying disgust) * Invalidation (Being made to feel – or making another feel – devalued, not cared about, or put down) * Defensiveness (Counterattacking a partner’s character, reflecting blame) * Escalation (Battling each other in a vicious cycle that spirals out of control) Stonewalling (Withdrawing or “pulling out” with no intent to return, disengaging) * Flooding (Being overwhelmed by criticism, contempt, etc. ) * Negative Interpretations (Viewing motives of a partner as “out to get you” or harmful) * The Body’s Language (Overwhelming physical responses to “stress-full” interaction such as increased heart rate, tremors, anxiety, etc. ) * Failed Repair Attempts (Missed attempts to put the brakes on or “head-off” harmful communication) * Bad Memories (Looking back on the relationship and seeing the “good gone bad” or good simply gone) * Hold Regular Couple Councils.
Few couples regularly talk about relationship concerns, so what begin as small issues become larger problems that threaten to destroy a relationship. Couples can use councils to nip problems in the bud. Here’s how. * First, plan a specific time and place each week when you and your spouse can talk alone together for at least 30-60 minutes without distractions or interruptions. No TV. No telephone. No kids. For one couple, the time that works best is 8:30 on Sunday evenings, after their children have gone to bed (or at least have gone to their rooms for the night! ). Another time may be better for you.
Carving out immutable time for the upkeep of your relationship is a tangible way to give your marriage high priority. Use the meeting to take stock of how the relationship is going and to discuss problems. * Discuss a Problem Fully Before Trying To Solve It. When focusing on a problem, couples should first have a full and open discussion about it and understand one another’s point of view before trying to solve a problem. * During this time, define together what the problem is, your own part in the problem, and how earlier attempts at dealing with it have proved unsuccessful.
Use “I-statements” to express concerns (“I was upset when you forgot our date last week”) and make two or three statements before the listener paraphrases what they heard. When listening, focus on the speaker’s message and paraphrase what you heard the speaker saying, without rebuttal (“It upset you that I spaced out our date”). Make sure you are both satisfied that you have been heard and understood. * Move On To Solving the Problem, If Necessary. Experts say that about seventy percent of couple issues don’t need to be solved, just well discussed. You may find that simply airing a concern is all you need to do.
But if your problem needs solving, here is an approach to follow: * Set the agenda. Identify the problem or portion of the problem that needs to be solved * Brainstorm. Think of as many strategies as you can (say, ten) for solving the problem. * Write them down so you can review them together. * Discuss and evaluate. Look over the strategies and discuss the pros and cons of each one. * Choose a strategy. Select one of the strategies to try out, one you both feel good about. * Agreement. Agree on what each of you will do to help carry out the solution. * Follow-up. Set a time to follow up on how things are going.
One couple decided they wanted to find a way to boost the family income. During brainstorming, they listed as many ideas as they could to address this need, from one or both partners getting a part-time job, to taking a budgeting class. They discussed and evaluated these possible solutions. They decided that one of them would get a part-time job and selected a date during a couple council to discuss how the solution was going. When couples use techniques such as these, combined with a deep desire to love and nurture their partner, they are less likely to fall into destructive communication patterns that harm marriages.
Important issues get discussed. Mitch Temple, Director of Marriage, Focus on the Family amassed several tools to assist with couples whose marriage is in conflict. They are not cure all but provide steps for turning any relationship around. This writer understands that all marriages are not Christian based and realize couples may take offense to what God’s words says about marriage, but given the condition of marriages in our society this is what assistance would look like. 1. Pray for them by name. Ask God to intervene in their marriage. Ask God to give you and others wisdom to know how to help.
Pray in their presence as well as when alone. Send emails and note cards of encouragement. 2. Listen. Listening doesn’t mean simply hearing. It involves empathizing, seeking to understand and expressing genuine interest. 3. Don’t give advice. Your main job is listening. Leave the advice giving to a pastor, counselor or mentor. 4. Don’t make the problem worse. Don’t allow your support to be seen as an encouragement to give up or get a divorce. Your job is to help steer them toward the proper help and reconciliation (If addiction or abuse is involved make sure they get the professional help they need and are safe). . Help them think outside the divorce box. Recommend booklets – When Your Marriage Needs Help, Should I Get a Divorce, Marriage and Conflict give couples both research and practical advice to help them consider the facts about divorce and how to get the help they need for their marriage. 6. Help them find the right help. Locate a good licensed Christian counselor in their area. Ask your pastor or Christian M. D. for a referral. Focus on the Family offers a free counseling consult as well as a free referral service to a Focus-screened marriage therapist. . Connect them with a mentor couple. If you are not qualified to help, call your pastor to recommend an older couple who is willing to mentor a younger couple. 8. Refer them to helpful web sites. www. troubledwith. com; www. family. org/marriage and www. pureintimacy. org offer hundreds of articles, practical advice and resource recommendations on various marriage issues. Focus now offers a Marriage Forum (www. family. org/marriageforum) designed to give couples a safe place to talk about struggles and successes in their marriage. 9.
Encourage them to work on their problems and not simply expect them to be solved on their own. Focus offers an online Marriage Checkup (www. family. org/couplecheckup) which measures over 18 major areas of marriage – identifying both strengths and weaknesses. This is a good place for a couple to start in addition to working with a professional counselor. 10. Refer them to solid Christian-based books and seminars. Visit family. org for marriage books, broadcast CDs and resources to strengthen a couple’s faith through a difficult time.
Key resources like Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved, Love and Respect, Love Must Be Tough, First Five Years of Marriage, Help! We are Drifting Apart, Breaking the Cycle of Divorce, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage and others can provide needed encouragement and direction. Conclusion/Interpretation It is clear that the realization of what statistics show us and what our own research reveals about marriage is quite startling. Like anything marriages need nourishment and proper caring for continued growth and development. Many are affected by marriages both good and marriages in crisis.
What is the key? Is it so hard to follow what God’s word says about marriage , or is our flesh and what we have been trained in our society our primary focus when what we want is concerned? The statistics say the chances of a successful marriage are about equal, even in the Christian community. Do we demand too much of our spouses once married? Do we expect perfection and look to our mates to live up to unattainable standards? These are interesting questions that need to be taken seriously if the marriage institution is what so many of us strive for.
We teach about what we ought to do during pre-marital counseling and offer keys to success ,but what happens when the blinders are taken off of our eyes. Do we look to our microwave society for answers or to God for the ultimate answers? Maybe this writer is unrealistic in his thoughts about God’s place in marriage. At least half of those who have been married believe the same thing. There is no such thing as a marriage with no conflict ,but there is hope in God and what is said about marriage in the Bible. * * * * * References * * The Case for Marriage (2000), by Linda J.
Waite and Maggie Gallagher. * The National Marriage Project http://marriage. rutgers. edu * * Written by Megan Northrup, Research Assistant, and edited by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University. * * Written by Megan Northrup, Research Assistant, edited by Robert F. Stahman and Stephen F. Duncan, Professors in the School of Family Life, Brigham Young University. * Written by Megan Northrup, Research Assistant, edited by Robert F. Stahman and Stephen F. Duncan, Professors in the School of Family Life, Brigham Young University. For more information on dealing with conflict in marriage, check out Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg, and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman. * Written by Trampas J. Rowden, Graduate Assistant, and edited by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University. * by James C. Dobson, Ph. D. * Metz, M. E. , & Epstein N. (2002). Assessing the role of relationship conflict in sexual dysfunction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 28:139-164. ————————————————- Top of Form