Conflict is common to all marriages and the sources of disagreement listed below may not surprise you. As you read them, however, consider which ones apply to you and your spouse.
This cause of conflict represents a lot of stuff, namely control, power and trust. I have counseled many couples where one mate has misused their money and the broken trust is just as severe as in an affair.
Money is options. When there is a lot of it, the options are more. When it is tight, the options are short and the stress can be long. It is why I share with engaged couples to go easy on the debt, especially early on. The first months (and years) of any marriage are stressful enough from the normal adjustments that need to be made. Don’t add to the stress with early debt.
Just a few of the sources of conflict that are kid-related:
- How to discipline them
- How much to discipline them (“You want to ground them for how long???”)
- Running them (and parents) ragged because they are on some team playing on some little league treadmill year-round
- Parents actually vying in competition for their kids’ approval. (Warped, but all too prevalent.)
Married couples argue with each other about many sex-related issues including frequency or sex outside of their marriage. Or for various reasons some couples just cannot function properly sexually, further stressing the marriage. Sex is a gift from our Lord for married couples. Unfortunately all too often this gift can become a source of stress and conflict.
- Working long hours
- Too much work-related travel
- Not making enough in current job. (See #1)
One of the most sensitive areas because it’s about family. (“That’s my mother you’re talking about!”) Leaving and cleaving is sometimes easier said than done.
- Time commitments
Overbooking can happen subtly. Then you look around and find yourself drowning in commitments. Calendar time to come up for air, reconnect. An annual retreat can help you plan those times. Without it you can feel lost and out of control, almost guaranteeing more stress and conflict.
- Ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends
Social media often provides the opportunity to reunite with old friends, including “dear” old friends. Watch this situation like a hawk. If there are any issues here – any issues – unfriend or close out the account(s) and move on. This is not a time to defend your old “we’re just friends” flame from yesteryear. You can have a life without social media, and it needs to happen if it is straining the trust in your marriage. No brainer, get an offline life and rebuild some trust.
This cause is often born from unclear communication. He thinks she’s meaning A, while she meant Z. Sometimes it is an honest mistake, but confusion and unclarity breed many an argument.
The classic and simple help here is to seek to understand precisely what your mate said. Use the simple line “I hear you saying…”, and you are not wrong! You are telling your mate you are receiving a message and asking her if that is the message she intended to send. She can then say yes, no or tweak her statement. We live in a world of vague terms that contain many meanings. Tell your mate what you heard her say. It is a powerful line. Use it.
- Unrealistic expectations
If I asked 100 spouses “Do you expect your mate to be perfect?” probably 100 would answer “No”. That would be their head answer. Their heart, however, might contain a different response. Actions speak much louder (and perhaps truer). The patience threshold of some spouses seem to be so low that the only level of acceptance and approval would indeed be perfection. An impossibility. How sad.
Let’s get real people. Neither you nor your mate are perfect. Let that soak into your head and your heart. Learn to love truly your mate – blemishes and all – and treat them accordingly.
- Stern Talk
Examples would be:
- Sarcasm, manipulative behavior
- Cheap shots fired at your spouse in public with a smile on your face. Your spouse does not see it as funny. Everyone awkwardly laughs with you but no one is comfortable.
- Lack of respect
- No kindness
Seek to eliminate stern talk from your marriage. It benefits no one.
Homework time: take a look at the above list. You might not fight over all of these but do one or two hit you between the eyes? See which ones make you vulnerable as a couple. Focus on them like a laser.
Seek to “attack” these weak areas as a team:
- Pray about them.
- Read up on them.
- Talk about them together.
- When are you most likely to argue about them?
- Admit that you have a part that needs improving.
- And of course, seek some help if needed.
Finally, you aren’t the only couple to have issues. You are just like the rest of us who deal with our own areas of conflict.
Trust the Lord with your marriage. Ask Him to help you to grow in those vulnerable areas. None of the causes of conflict above are insurmountable. God can shape your relationship into what He wants it to be as you attack these sensitive parts of your marriage.