In any marriage, even the most supportive and harmonious, there are disagreements, and the way the couple resolves conflict affects the health, vibrancy and longevity of the marriage. Some couples mistakenly believe their marriage has no chance of success if they have disputes, which could be due to the age-old belief that conflict is best avoided to ensure family unity. The result of conflict avoidance is often barely controlled anger and deep-seated resentment about unresolved issues.
Ironically, voicing disagreements may actually create growth and intimacy in a relationship if the conflict is resolved constructively. Conflict is normal and inevitable, and in blended families, issues of transitioning kids, ex-spouses, financial problems and parenting differences can increase the range of disagreements with negative results.
Although one of many experts in the field of relationships and conflict resolution, Dr Scott Haltzman offers unique insight and practical advice in his best-selling book, The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wifes Heart Forever. Dr Haltzman has distilled on-going research from thousands of married men into a useful guide that highlights 8 useful strategies that help marriages thrive.
Strategy # 4, "Expect Conflict and Deal with It," helps couples gain a better understanding of conflict by describing the way men and women are biologically equipped to cope with it, the moods and motives that cultivate disagreements, the patterns of conflicts and how to allay them. Everyone wants to feel listened to, cared for and validated, and being aware of this goes a long way to helping couples put the brakes on conflict and patch things up before they spiral out of control.
This is what Dr Haltzman wants us to know about conflict:
1. Happy and unhappy couples argue about the same amount of time and about the same basic issues: money, sex and housework being the three most popular.
2. 69 % of clashes in a marriage are never resolved, and thats an acceptable level.
3. Both men and women can learn constructive ways to debate issues, and to agree to disagree.
4. Conflict many times surfaces due to the inherent differences in how the sexes view conflict and how they cope with it.
Dr Haltzman describes the 4 common ways that arguments accelerate. See if you recognize yourself or your partner in any of these descriptions:
Feeding the Fire: We all know the scenario where a criticism or complaint is thrown out, the response being more hostility, and so on, until its a free-for-all that includes ancient history from arguments past. An escalating, major altercation cannot simply be shut down like an out-of-control video game, but keeps accelerating. Strategies for calming out-of-control "fires" include softening your tone, becoming aware of areas of agreement, focusing on the positive and "holding that emotion," which basically means refraining from escalating into a higher gear with hurtful comments.
Withdrawal and Avoidance: Men are more likely to withdraw from and not deal with a complaint than women are, and this sends a dismissive message to women that makes them very irritated. Women object to avoidance because discussing an issue makes them feel better, even though the issue may not be resolved. Men avoid and withdraw for understandable biological reasons but these behaviors fuel the fire of conflict with the women in their lives.
Negative Interpretation: Assigning unintended negative meaning to things a spouse does or doesnt say can incite major conflict that can ramp up quickly, because each partner is responding to something that was neither said nor intended. Clarifying one's meaning and active listening will help cut this out.
Finger Pointing: This is the classic criticizing that demands a response, which turns into defensiveness and more blame. The effective technique is to use I statements that refer to personal perception rather than accusing the other person. The most important element of a conflict is how its resolved or "patched up" when a fight is concluded. Both men and women must decide whether being right is more important than preserving a happy marriage. Among newly married couples that could not patch things up after a fight, the divorce rate was 90 %, versus an 84% successful marriage rate of those who managed to come to an understanding.
Couples can have fun experimenting with many different strategies to restore harmony after a fight; this puts the conflict behind them so they can move past that and focus on the aim of enjoying a happy marriage.
Sheena Berg enjoys writing articles for the StepHeroes step parenting advice newsletter at . To discover more about happily married men, there's no substitute for reading "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" by Scott Haltzman, M.D. (See our video review at ).
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