Conflict is a part of all relationships. Whether we simply disagree with others from time to time, strike passive-aggressive blows under the table, or flat out throw down with vicious rhetoric, human beings don’t agree on everything. If you get married, have friends, or simply choose to pull your car out of your driveway on occasion, you will find some form of conflict in your life.
There are two general schools of thought when it comes to conflict. There are those that live by the principle that all conflict is bad and should be avoided at all times and at any cost. Then there are others who either don’t mind conflict or look forward to it. While I would say those who enjoy conflict generally have an unhealthy view of relationships, I would say that conflict can also be beneficial.
The reason most people consider conflict to be bad is because of negative experience with conflict and because it is generally unpleasant. When two people, who believe they are right, go head-to-head against each other with differing beliefs, conflict can quickly move from attacking the problem to attacking each other verbally (and sometimes, even physically).
The absence of conflict does not determine the health of a relationship, but the way conflict is handled shines a light on the inner workings of a relationship. Dr. John Gottman, the leading researcher on marriage in the United States, says that he can determine whether a married couple will stay together or divorce with a 91% accuracy rate based solely on the way a couple argues/fights. He has an apartment with cameras (affectionately called the “love lab”) in Seattle, Washington where couples stay for a few days and he observes their interaction. In the decades he has been studying couples, he has come to find an unmistakable link between how people fight and the health/longevity of their marriages. His book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail… And How You Can Make Yours Last is inspiring this blog post series and it is for all couples: married, engaged, or dating. Singles will get a lot out of this series in learning what to avoid too!
In Gottman’s book, he lists (what he calls) the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The four horsemen are:
We will cover each of these horsemen in detail for the upcoming posts in this series.
Before marriage, I would have had a difficult time believing that Eric and I could ever have reached the point that we would be criticizing each other, showing each other contempt, blaming each other for the problems in our marriage, or giving each other the cold shoulder; but, after being married for a while, I’ve come to realize that it does not take much for a relationship to get to this point.
Marriages that avoid the four horsemen consist of two vigilant people who refuse to let their marriages simply exist; rather, marriages that avoid the four horsemen are the ones that learn to use conflict to better their marriages and learn to attack problems without attacking each other.
If you and your sweetheart have been struggling to “fight fair” or you find that none of your conflicts ever get fully resolved, stay tuned! If you and your sweetheart generally get along well, but you want to avoid developing bad communication patterns, stay tuned! And, if you and your sweetheart never fight, don’t worry… you will eventually… ~smile~… so, stay tuned!
Lastly, if you know of others who would benefit from this series, please share it with them – we would love for this series to be a blessing to them!
Believe me, it is so much easier to learn how to fight fair before marriage than to spend twenty years backtracking and trying to learn after marriage. I look forward to writing this series as I’m sure the Lord will reveal truths to me about my own marriage (as He often does when I write. ~smile~)
Is “out of control” conflict currently a problem in your dating or marriage relationship?