Couples and Conflict

Why Do Couples Disagree?

by Sally Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT
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Couples and conflict are normal.  Disagreement happens in any relationship. How you handle the disagreement; however, can provide a key to understanding whether or not a marriage will survive.

Are you someone, or married to someone, who avoids conflict? What about someone who is highly conflictual or volatile? Are you, or your significant other, a person who likes to work out little details and make the sanctity of the friendship the most important feature?

John Gottman 
who has researched couples and conflict notes that the most difficult relationships are those
 Researcher John Gottman in which there are two different styles of relating, that is if someone whose style is to avoid conflict is married to someone whose style tends more toward blowing up, maybe even a volatile style of handling disagreements. When partners handle disagreements in different ways, it can be frustrating and destructive to their relationship. 

Similar styles make handling disagreements easier
When couples in conflict have the same styles, they are more likely to agree to disagree or blow up and then forget about it while making passionate love or spend a lot of time discussing and negotiating their differences.

In addition, Gottman noted that most couples disagree about the same things over and over again. About two-thirds of a couples’ disagreements are over the same things. If you were not married to your partner and were with someone else, you might not disagree about the same things … but you would have some “perpetual issues.”
Couples and Conflict: Perpetual Issues
Gottman lists 25 different issues for couples in conflict, from “The Big 4”: children, sex, money and in-laws to issues such as how much time to spend together, neatness and orderliness or timeliness. So, you may not be able to come to an agreement on how to handle all of the family money, however, you might be able to find ways to calmly talk about how to handle this bill or the next paycheck.

Common Blocks
There are a few very common blocks to healthy communication and conflict resolution, among them are starting with criticism, being disrespectful and derogatory in looks and comments, escalating to fighting and arguing and finally, leaving and refusing to discuss the issue or stonewalling.

  Understand your partner's viewpoint, even if you don't agree
Also important is a lack of understanding of your partner’s viewpoint, not agreeing with them,  just getting some sense of what it is about their viewpoint that is important to them.

In the next few articles, we will discuss a little more about these elements of  couples and conflict and conflict resolution.  We are glad to meet with you online or in person to talk more about how this affects your own relationship.  Contact us at Counseling Relationships Online to talk more about your situation.

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