We’ve often heard that a little marriage conflict can be a good thing because it invites couples to become better problem solvers regarding their issues. And whether you’re married or not, most couples encounter bumps in the road. Knowing how to resolve them can lead to happier, healthier interactions between you, because as you learn more about each other’s personalities and beliefs, you can apply that knowledge to move forward. The real trouble starts when you can’t reconcile your differences and these undercurrents of dissent begin spilling over into all aspects of your relationship.
The causes of marriage conflict are pretty standard: finances, time, kids, sex, job concerns, in-law issues, hobbies, differences in spiritual beliefs, differences in personal values and even the way each of you interprets yourself, your relationship and the world around you. If you don't have the right skill set in place to build a collaborative relationship, then tension, unhappiness and conflict are almost inevitable.
A “collaborative marriage” is one approach to addressing marriage conflict.
According to Miller, Miller, Nunnally & Wackman (2007), who have been
recognized by the American Association for Marriage and
Family Therapy and the National Council on Family Relations for their
contributions in this field, there are seven dimensions of a collaborative
· First, you have to commit
to a partnership.
· Second you have to care actively for both yourself and your partner.
· Third, you consider life's
problems and issues to be opportunities.
· Fourth, you communicate
skillfully with each other with a strong desire to connect.
· Fifth, you build a spirit of cooperation in the process of resolving concerns and problems that arise from time to time.
· Sixth, you celebrate your
lives together as you overcome challenges and find opportunities for giving
increasing meaning to your lives.
· Seventh, you build greater meaning and enrichment in your life by contributing to the world around you.
While much of the work to establish an effective collaborative marriage that reduces marriage conflict will be done by the two of you together, sometimes you need to begin by resolving conflict within your own personalities. This can be a hard and sometimes painful journey of facing individual personal grief and loss issues, past physical, emotional and sexual abuse experiences, addictions or family of origin domestic violence experiences.
But as you become more
complete and whole within yourself, your growing self-esteem can give you the
solid footing you need to work with your partner to build a collaborative relationship
that reduces toxic levels of marriage conflict. You may need to involve outside
resources like a therapist or counselor to help you, of course, but that’s a
strong first step to helping create the kind of future you want to have with
With today’s divorce rate hovering
between 40-50% for first marriages (and upwards of 70% for third marriages), it
takes a strong and committed couple to honestly assess what you can do to mitigate
marriage conflict so you can move through life in a more peaceful, harmonious
For more detailed
information on collaborative marriage, check out these links: Talking and Listening Together: Couple Communication
One by Sherod Miller, Phyllis Miller, Elam W. Nunnally
and Daniel B.
Wackman (May 1991) and Collaborative Marriage Skills with Scripture [Couple
Communication I by Sherod Miller; Phyllis Miller; Elam W
Nunnally & Daniel B Wackman (2007).
Visit these pages for more information: