Marriage Monday: Marital Conflict

Happy Monday to all the husbands and wives out there and also to all those formerly married or anticipating marriage!

Let's start by taking a quick glance back at our week/weekend - what was the peak moment you had together?  What about the pit moment?  (You can share or keep it to yourself - totally up to you!)
I would say our peak moment was most of our Sunday afternoon.  We got together for a family lunch with my grandparents, mom, aunts, uncles, a few of my cousins, our significant others and our children.  It's not often we get together like that and it was really nice to get together for good food and some fun conversation.  It was nice for Tony & I to spend time with my cousin and her husband (who became parents last year as well) and their sweet baby boy to laugh about married life and poopy diapers!
Presley, me, Emory & my cousin Breanne at Presley's birthday party.
Breanne & I are just 8.5 months apart and so are our kids!

My pit of the weekend was absolutely last night.  I'm not sure if it was the time change catching up to her or what, but Presley had one of the worst evenings I can remember for a while now.  Long story short, she threw a fit just before bedtime and it really impacted her nightly routine and mood at bedtime.  It was just me and her since Tony had a basketball game and I think she didn't like that very much either.  (Daddy's girl!)  I think she finally ended up falling asleep after 9pm - which is very late for her - and after many tears, which rarely ever happens on a normal night.

Now, what does this have to do with marital conflict?  Well, I feel passionately that the pit moments in our lives are just as important and special as the peaks.  If our happiness was always at a 10 on a scale of 1-10, would we really enjoy it as much?  Would it really feel like a 10?  Of course, we don't go around asking for days where the happiness is around a 4 or 5, but in hindsight, I can typically see how I've grown after experiencing those days.  The same logic can be applied to my marriage.

We automatically assume that conflict is a BAD thing that only happens in BAD marriages but this couldn't be farther from the truth.  Studies on human behavior show that conflict is inevitable, so we know to expect disagreements and conflict within our healthy and happy marriages.  Another assumption floating around is that we need to have perfect marriages.  And considering that most people already incorrectly think of conflict as a bad thing, we are very likely to make our marriages appear to be perfect and conflict-free to those around us.  When in reality, as I said before - no matter where you live, your income, or what language you communicate with - one thing all of our marriages around the world have in common is conflict!

Knowing and accepting that your marriage is not doomed because you disagree can be a huge relief within your marriage.  What we now need to make sure we are equipped with is how to handle marital conflict.  Here are several strategies that marriage and family professionals suggest:
  • Hold regular "Marriage Meetings" or "Couple Councils":  This simply means to designate a time that will work for you and your spouse to regularly get together - just the two of you - at least once every week for marriage maintenance.  We all know how when all the "little things" begin to add up, they can easily come tumbling down at any given time without proper communication.  This way, you have regular time set aside for just the two of you to talk about your marriage to reconnect.  I love this idea and will be implementing this into our week!  I'm thinking Sunday evenings would be the perfect time to unwind the happenings of the past week and recharge our batteries for the upcoming week.
  • Recognize unhealthy, destructive patterns:  There are things that we tend to do when conflict arises that can perpetuate conflict instead of preventing or solving it.  The good news is, there are patterns we can be on the look-out for and once we are aware of these unhealthy patterns we can do our best to avoid using them.
    Harsh Start-ups (Frequently getting started on the wrong foot)
    Criticism (Complaints with the intent to attack another person's character)
    Contempt (Criticism conveying disgust)
    Invalidation (Being made to feel - or making another feel - devalued, not cared about, or put down)
    Defensiveness (Counterattacking a partner's character, reflecting blame)
    Escalation (Battling each other in a vicious cycle that spirals out of control)
    Stonewalling (Withdrawing or "pulling out" with no intent to return, disengaging)
    Flooding (Being overwhelmed by criticism, contempt, etc.)
    Negative Interpretations (Viewing motives of a partner as "out to get you" or harmful)
    The Body's Language (Overwhelming physical responses to "stress-full" interaction such as increased heart rate, tremors, anxiety, etc.)
    Failed Repair Attempts (Missed attempts to put the brakes on or "head-off" harmful communication)
    Bad Memories (Looking back on the relationship and seeing the "good gone bad" or good simply gone) 
    Forever Families - Handling Conflict in Marriage
    I can say that I am guilty of using more than one of these unhealthy techniques within conflict over the years, as most of them go hand-in-hand with each other.  Now that I can identify them and know what they are specifically, hopefully Tony and I can go over this list together and keep each other accountable to not use these when conflict arises. 
  • Make sure to FULLY discuss a problem BEFORE trying to solve it:  Experts say that around 70% of marital problems don't actual require any "solving" - just proper discussion!  Make sure to be a good listener as your partner speaks!
    During this time, define together what the problem is, your own part in the problem, and how earlier attempts at dealing with it have proved unsuccessful. Use "I-statements" to express concerns ("I was upset when you forgot our date last week") and make two or three statements before the listener paraphrases what they heard. When listening, focus on the speaker's message and paraphrase what you heard the speaker saying, without rebuttal ("It upset you that I spaced out our date"). Make sure you are both satisfied that you have been heard and understood.
    Forever Families - Handling Conflict in Marriage

In addition to learning and adopting some of these healthy techniques, there are tons of resources out there to aid healthy habits within your marriage!  If you have any helpful resources to add, I would love to include them.

Forever Families
The Gottman Relationship Institute
Dr Phil - Advice on Marriages

So, what were your pit/peak moments of the weekend?  Feel moved to elaborate on today's topic? 
Link up with today's Marriage Monday using the button below, send me a link to your blog, and I will include the link here at the bottom of my blog for others to enjoy!

chasing moonlight and roses

To expand on this week's topic of conflict within your marriage, next week's Marriage Monday topic: "Fighting in Front of Your Kids"

If you would like to contribute to an upcoming Marriage Monday or suggest a topic - you can contact me at 20may2011{at}gmail{dot}com.  I'm looking for guest bloggers who would like to share about their own marriage or those who can offer advice or opinions on marriage-related topics!  
Don't be shy - we all have something wonderful to offer and your thoughts can be a breath of fresh air to another marriage!


  1. I thought this post was an interesting read! I'm definitely guilty of a lot of things stated above. Thankfully, Stu, and I have learned how to communicate better in our 8 years together!

    The peak was playing with Forrest together. It was fun to spend time as a family. The pit was dealing with a misunderstanding which has been cleared up shortly after!


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