No marriage plays out like a fairy tale, where the couple lives happily ever after. Sure, they’ve found happiness with each other, but it doesn’t mean they end each day happily. In fact, they can spend an entire day bickering. That’s why when a pair of friends constantly argue, their peers may remark that they “bicker like an old married couple.”
But in the first place, why is bickering associated with old married couples? It’s almost as if society sees petty arguments as a normal occurrence in a lasting marriage. Yet divorced couples started growing apart because of petty arguments as well.
Arguments arise from conflicts, and conflicts are the root of unhappy marriages. If that’s the case, then why do some couples find conflicts healthy? And why do others see it as a sign of an impending divorce? Where do you draw the line then?
Conflicts are Inevitable, and They are Normal
Many of us, regardless of our civil status, avoid conflicts like it’s a virus. Even if it’s already there, we tend to ignore it, acting like it doesn’t exist. But turning a blind eye to conflicts will only result in bigger issues.
New York City-based psychologist, Michael Batshaw, LCSW, says that engaging in conflicts doesn’t end a relationship. It’s actually avoiding a conflict that might thwart a relationship. His statement is supported by Michigan-based relationship expert, Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. In her long-term study with the same couples, she has found that those who avoid addressing small issues eventually deal with bigger problems.
Hence, Orbuch advises couples to “sweat the small the stuff”, while Batshaw says no problem is too small to acknowledge in a relationship. Whether that’s minor money issues, daily stress, or busy schedules, talk about it with your spouse. Pretending that those small problems don’t exist will only build up the tension in your marriage.
But how do you make a conflict strengthen your marriage? Clinical psychologist, Susan Heitler, Ph.D., says that most fighting comes from skill deficits. True enough, most couple fights are caused by one spouse who fails to deliver what’s expected of them. For example, the wife told her husband to fold the laundry while she’s away, but she came home with the laundry still hung outside.
Even if chores are only a minor issue in marriages, it can evolve into something deeper-rooted if couples don’t resolve it. Using the previous example once more, the disappointed wife may start digging up her husband’s shortcomings, while the stung husband may defend himself by pointing out his wife’s imperfections, too.
Therefore, instead of letting small issues hang the air and grow, acknowledge and resolve it together. If you’re having trouble reconciling, consider insightful marriage counseling. A professional’s involvement helps in improving you and your spouse’s communication skills, and other shortcomings.
Big Conflicts Can be Resolved Too
If you often argue about money, your children’s welfare, your jobs, bad habits, or insufficient time with one another, those conflicts won’t doom your marriage. But that’s if you choose to resolve it. Sadly, many couples choose to give up on each other and file a divorce.
Though divorce is the better option in some cases, it shouldn’t be your first course of action. Instead, make it your last resort, but buried deep in a pile of a thousand other alternatives.
When you fight over money, for example, determine the root of the problem, and the other issues that surround it. Most of the time, money disputes are symbolic of something different, like a power struggle, or opposing values and needs. So if a financial problem is making your spouse irritable, understand that it’s not just his or her cash shortage that’s probably causing it. Find out if his or her irritability roots from not being able to dominate, or provide adequately.
Once you identify the real root of your spouse’s hostility (no matter the issue), know, accept, and adjust to your differences. You can’t keep being polar opposites if you want your marriage to last. By making some compromises, you may realize that some of your spouse’s values can improve your life, and vice-versa.
Throw your selfishness out the window. Some conflicts also arise because of your individual desires. When that happens, remember that you and your spouse are a single unit now. Hence, you must prioritize what’s good for your marriage before what’s good for yourselves.
When you’re dealing with a problem in which your spouse isn’t involved, solve that problem together nonetheless. Brainstorm solutions together. Make it a habit every time you or your spouse deals with a challenge. Do it as well when it’s a marital conflict you’re solving.
You and your spouse are in the same team, so no matter what conflict comes your way, remember that you’re meant to solve it as one. When you adopt such a mindset, no conflict can break your marriage.