Managing Marital Conflict – Conflict is Inevitable but Reconciliation is Critical
Work on my marriage? I thought once we said “I do” we were done. Little did I know that marriage is a marathon, requiring me to pick up courage, discipline and go through endurance training to continue the run. Waking up one day and realising that my marriage had the fragility to break was a scary awakening that pushed me to practice what I preached.
My husband and I thought we knew a lot about marriage but we didn’t know how to live out what we knew cognitively. When we got into a disagreement, neither of us would budge an inch. To get across my point, I would expect my husband to see my point of view. He would get defensive and blame me for making condescending remarks. We were so angry with each other that the last thing we wanted to do was to spend the night together. It felt like we were injecting into our relationship what Gottman has identified as the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse in a relationship: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. These 4 toxins in our relationship badly needed to be purged.
The first step in rebuilding a relationship is to acknowledge that there are fundamental differences between males and females. Mark Gungor described it as a tale of two brains – we think, feel, want and communicate differently. These differences foster conflicts and conflicts need to be embraced. Conflict requires us to face up to it and not slip into the pitfall of avoiding it. Every married couple must learn to establish the rules and boundaries to “fight” fairly. Only by so doing can we give each other the possibility to work on conflicts in a marriage. And thereafter, to reconcile and commit to unity.
Toxins in Marriage and the Antidotes:
Every couple, including myself, needs to set up mutually respected boundaries to address our conflicts and reconcile. It takes intention and hard work to develop skills to resolve conflicts. With endurance, and grit, we would all be winners at the end of the day.
Written by Isabelle Ng, Marriage Educator, Fei Yue Community Services
Gottman, John (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. New York Harmony.
Gungor, Mark (2008) Laugh your way to a better marriage: Unlocking the Secrets to Life, Love and Marriage. Atria Books, New York.
Hendrix, Harville & Hunt, Helen LaKelly (2013). Making Marriage Simple: 10 Truths for Changing the Relationship you have into the one you want. Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.