While conflict in a marriage is unavoidable, there are healthy ways to engage with your partner when disagreements present themselves. There are various types of conflicts, such as disagreements that leave you in gridlock or day to day disagreements that cause the two of you to just stumble through issues.
A cornerstone to a successful marriage is understanding and implementing boundaries in the marriage that preserve honor and respect in the marriage. Let’s explore different safeguards techniques that can be embraced in your marriage to help facilitate happiness and longevity.
Let’s explore gridlock issues.
Gridlock happens in all relationships and in all marriages. Gridlock issues are when one or both of you are not willing to change your position on an issue. Some people refer to these issues by saying things such as, “we’ll have to agree to disagree.” Gridlock does not have to be a significant area of conflict. When two people are in gridlock, the need to explore why each other feels the way that they do about a particular issue. This can help facilitate mutual understanding regarding why your partner feels a certain way and is unwilling to alter their position. For example, your spouse may not believe your teenager should date in high school and you may not feel as though it should be an issue. Exploring where each other are coming from and why you embrace the position about the issue can be advantageous if you learn your partner did not feel protected or guided in their dating experiences when they were younger, while you may feel as though your parents embraced a strict and overbearing approach to parenting so you find yourselves disagreeing about the issue. Neither of you may alter your perspective, so you’re in gridlock. You have to find small areas within the issue that are negotiable. Perhaps you agree that the child cannot date, however, your child may have friends of the opposite sex, for example. This is considered a compromise to a gridlocked issue.
Other focus areas to create a successful marriage is eliminating unhealthy and ineffective communication. According to John Gottman, this is called the Four Horseman, four things to avoid in communication with your partner.
Contempt: Contempt takes place when communication feels as though there is a hierarchy that exists, meaning one person “knows best” and the other person “is not smart enough to understand.” In this type of communication, the message being conveyed is that your partner is beneath you. Contempt includes name-calling, inappropriate sarcasm, disrespect, and vulgar humor. An example of contempt, “You act like a child, grow up!”
Criticism: Criticism is a toxic habit in relationships. It will cause your spouse to feel insecure, question their value and self-worth. It will damage your relationship and drive the two of you apart. The backbone of a successful relationship is connecting with one another, however, that is impossible if one of you is feeling judged or as though you cannot do anything right. Any time you attack the character of your partner, you are being critical and the damage contaminates the relationship and causes resentments.
Defensiveness: Defensive communication typically blames the other person for your behaviors. This happens when you feel attacked and you may react impulsively or in a way that is dismissive. The concern is that when your spouse expresses a concern, they may be looking for a solution, to feel heard, receive empathy, or affirmation. Everyone is defensive sometimes, however, the key is to preserve balance. Be sure to listen to your partner, hear what they are saying, and extend empathy or understanding in place of defensiveness, it can make a huge difference.
Stonewalling: Withdrawing does not make things better or easier. The biggest concern with stonewalling, also known as “the silent treatment,” is that the person receiving the silent treatment gets to make up whatever they want about what is happening. What’s worse, is people tend to tell themselves the worst things, “he doesn’t love me,” “she doesn’t care about me,” “I’m not important,” “why isn’t he trying, is he seeing someone else?” Your partner gets to make up whatever he or she wants about the issue, and I promise they are saying the worst things to themselves. Stonewalling can feel dismissive and powerless. Instead of shutting down, try an antidote to stonewalling by expressing the need for a time-out to gather your thoughts and revisit the concern later.
All of these communication approaches can be extremely damaging to your relationship and create distance between you and your partner. Implementing these guidelines and tools into your marriage may help the two of you communicate better and feel both heard and understood by your partner. Conflict is inevitable and is not always a negative thing as it can certainly facilitate connection and understanding. But it is important to learn how to manage your conflict in a healthier way by improving your communication style with one another.