Managing Conflict In Marriage

Conflict Resolution in marriage

A major ingredient of any Premarital Counseling tool must include handling conflicts. In Becoming Aware by Velma Walker and Lynn Brokaw (1976), "When two or more people live and work closely together, for any length of time a degree of conflict will be generated. Furthermore, the greater the emotional involvement and the day-to-day sharing, the greater the potential for conflict. Although it is impossible to eliminate conflict, there are ways to manage it effectively." (p. 260).

Pre-marital Counseling discusses issues that would help intended couples see what and how they can avoid unnecessary conflict and failures. It is necessary to see:

· Conflict as a breakdown in communication
· Conflict and the process for rebuilding harmony
· Conflict and the act of forgiveness
· Conflicts and the restoration of the relationship

Whenever there is a breakdown in communication within the family group, conflict is inevitable. William B Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim (1984) state,
"Personal (or interpersonal) communication refers to three interrelated psychological processes (cognitive, affective, and behavioural). Through personal communication we develop ways of seeing, hearing, understanding, and responding to our environment "(p. 210).

Gudykunst and Kim (1984) continue, "The way a person responds to stimuli may relate to his or her upbringing. Personal communication is thought of as sensing, making sense, or acting towards the objects and people in one's milieu" (p. 210). 

One's relationship can be affected by what is learned. Cultural and personal upbringing will influence one's life style. A look at Clinebell's (1984) three aspects in the process of communication will show that whenever there is communicative incompetence the marriage relationship will be in difficulty.

Three identifiable patterns that are compatible with personal culture are:

1) The Cognitive Process:

How people think, say, and act is so important in the process of building good marriage relationship. The values, principles and mental expectations, if they are violated, will cause conflict because of certain levels of expectation. This expectation has been formed through the cognitive process. According to Howard Clinebell (1984) in Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, "when two persons come together each brings their own a unique pattern of personality needs to the marriage relationship" (p 257). 

Clinebell believes that 'Effective communication including all the verbal and nonverbal ways people exchange ideas, attitudes, meanings, desires, hope, angers, fears, warmth and caring is what nurtures love in a relationship by feeding the basic psychological hungers and satisfies the basic human will-to-relate' (p. 264).

It would seem necessary even before a relationship is made permanent that there must be cognitive compatibility. How persons respond and react many times will be determined by our ability to communicate in various ways. According to a survey done in Trinidad and Tobago by Althea Lewis for Caribbean Nazarene Theological College, November 2001, the education level and or the literacy level of the spouse made communication easier and more meaningful. 

According to at least 15 persons (15%) in the survey, the lack of high education achievements creates frustration.

The concept of cognitive dissonance was introduced by Leon Festinger (1957) to account for reactions to inconsistencies in attitudes and beliefs. According to this theory, when two or more persons' cognitive conditions, such as beliefs, opinions and the things we know about various types of behaviour, people, objects, or circumstances, are in disagreement (dissonance) a state of tension results.

2) The Affective Process.

Gudykunst and Kim (1994) give the idea that conflict does not only build up because of cognitive incompetence but also because of affective patterns such as emotional expressions, values and attitudes. These affective patterns are all social relationships involving sentiments, emotions and feelings. 

Again a lot of what takes place in the affective process is learned culturally and many times is passed down through the years. We react many times like our parents would react. Gudykunst records, "Taft (1977) identifies this affective process as the 'dynamic' aspect of culture" (p. 211).

When communicative competence is present in a relationship each of the processes of communication is not divorced but relates to each other. Gudykunst and Kim (1984) state in agreement:
When the affective process is integrated successfully with the cognitive orientation, strangers achieve an adequate social orientation enabling them to understand how members of the host culture feel behave. 

Once a stranger acquires an adequate level of adaptation to the host's affective orientation, they can share the humor, excitement and joy of the natives, as well as their anger, pain, and disappointment (p. 212).

Even though this quotation speaks about strangers in a new culture, many times without proper counseling and preparation, two persons are plunged into marriage relationship only to realize that they have married a stranger. Where marriage is entered into without careful preparation, there is hurt, pain and anger, which stems from a lack of interpersonal relationship. The counselor will be able to resolve some marital crises if the cognitive process is used to assist with the meeting of needs in the affective process.

3) The Behavioral Process

What is critically important here, is not just acquiring cognitive and affective competence, but appropriate behavior, appropriate role performance and the show of affection. There are self-defeating behaviors when there is a lack in the cognitive and affective. Verbal and non-verbal communication (if it is negative) will be responded to negatively. 

Sherod and Phyllis Miller (1997) in their book "Core Communication Skills and Processes" believe that the process you use in dealing with difficult internal (interpersonal) conflict influences the outcome and personal satisfaction with it. Likewise when an interpersonal conflict occurs between two persons how you talk and listen to that person, regardless of his or her skill in communication, make a difference in the outcome. It also affects your satisfaction about it.

In the Youth for Christ Training Manual (1972) one of the ways to change the behavior that is evident in a given conflict is to offer the kind of incentive that would change mindset and attitude. The popular saying rings true, "The way to win the heart of a woman is to listen to her". 

Listening to her causes her to sometimes change how she sees herself in the relationship. By listening to her, she begins to see herself as a significant other in the relationship. The same is true as it relates to the man. He begins to see himself in a different light if his wife is listening to him. 

One of the important roles of the marriage counselor is to encourage the couple to communicate with each other. Listening becomes important to them as they converse with one another. Behavioral change is likely to take place when communication is restored. There are various ways in which one can communicate in the midst of a conflict:

a) Be aware of the nonverbal and verbal communication and their effects on the relationship. 

b) Loud talking, talking down, pointing of fingers, facial expressions and eye contact, and the absence of it, is all part of the process of communication. 

One can be more effective if one is aware of the many things that can throw the relationship into further crisis.

Walker and Brokaw (1992) in 'Becoming Aware' believe that successful communication is a major corner stone in the marriage relationship. Communication has to be open, realistic, tactful, caring, and valued. The maintenance of this kind of communication is very difficult and not always easy unless all the persons involved are committed to the belief that good communication is important to marital satisfaction. Strong, healthy relationships within the marriage do not just happen. Much effort must be placed on educating and informing the couple on the rudiments of good communication.

The question of why conflicts come up has no easy answer or solution. Many of the married spouses cry in silence, because their situations seem to border on hopelessness and are quite painful. There are many persons who have never experienced true harmony beyond their honeymoon. 

To a large extent if persons do not deal with their past, their upbringing and their family mindsets, they may be bringing into the relationship unresolved issues with which the spouse would eventually have to cope. This in itself is an item for conflict. According to Clinebell (1984),
The overall goal of marriage-crisis counseling and also marriage therapy is to help couples learn how to make their relationship more mutually satisfying and more growth nurturing (p 259).

Managing Conflict In Marriage Managing Conflict In Marriage Reviewed by E.A Olatoye on November 07, 2021 Rating: 5

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