The Happiness Connection  

Marriage's perpetual conflict

When two people come together as a couple, they are bound to have disagreements, especially when they blend all areas of their lives together by getting married.

The adventure starts with excitement, but as you exit the honeymoon phase, the little differences grow big enough to be annoying.

I frequently say that couples should buy a duplex for their home. Each can live on one side of the house. They can be together when they want, but also have their own space to clean, or not clean as they feel moved to.

Although this is a great solution in my opinion, I don’t think the trend is going to take off any time soon. Instead couples need to become more informed about dealing with individual differences.

It might surprise you, but according to John M. Gottman of the Love Lab research centre in Seattle, 69 per cent of all marital conflict will never be resolved.

Gottman calls these areas of conflict perpetual issues.

Perpetual conflict describes all the things you’ve been arguing about for years with little, or no resolution. They include topics such as money, domestic chores, and raising children.

I realize that my husband and I have spent hours, maybe days, weeks, or months of our 29-year marriage trying to persuade the other one that we are right, and they are wrong.

Despite getting nowhere, couples continue to fight over these matters. You do the same thing over and over in hopes of getting a different result and then feel disappointed because you don’t.

Perpetual conflict leads to feeling you’ve been caught in a loop. You may ask yourself, “How did we get here again?” It is your own personal version of the movie Ground Hog Day.

For many couples, you get so tired of the same argument that one, or both, of you begins to avoid talking about it. You know the issue is lurking beneath the surface, but if you don’t acknowledge it, maybe it will go away.

Avoiding conflict leads to anger. You will find more information about unresolved anger in my column from last week. Anger is natural, but it needs to be accepted and released, not buried.

Perpetual conflict is unlikely to ever be resolved, so if you continue to battle to get your partner to admit you are right and they are wrong, you are in for a life-time of misery.

Conflict rarely has a right and a wrong side, it has different sides. Because you like the freedom to live in the moment, it doesn’t mean the person who wants to plan every step is wrong.

Knowing that these issues will never be resolved is a freeing thought. It gives you permission to have long-term differences of opinion in your marriage. It releases you from believing that conflict needs to be resolved.

Try implementing these three strategies if you want to find peace in your perpetual conflict.

1. Stop trying to win and start accepting that you are both entitled to have your own beliefs and opinions

When you battle to win, or you choose the path of avoidance, you will feel you are caught in a never ending negative spiral.

When you accept that both positions have merit, but you need to find some middle ground that works for you both, you are working as a team that is trying to find a solution.

2. Step back from your position and view the situation with less emotional attachment

Pretend that the perpetual conflict is a soccer ball. Rather than battling against your partner to score, imagine that you are on the same team. It is only by working together than you will be successful.

By imagining the conflict as the ball, you can look at it as an entity of its own, rather than an extension of you. Taking the personal emotions out of the conflict makes it easier to detach from it and find some middle ground.

3. Look for humour in the conflict.

Seeing the funny side of any situation will help strengthen your relationship. When we laugh, our bodies release feel-good chemicals that make it easier for us to cope with stress and find hope. Laughing together creates a positive bond of intimacy and connection between you and your partner.

Stop trying to bring your partner to your side of a disagreement. It's OK to see the world differently. By accepting and being accepted, you may well discover a beautiful new level to your relationship. 

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories