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Marital Conflict Resolution Strategies


Marital conflict is inescapable as two people share their lives in decision-making, child-rearing, and other marital periods. Marital conflict has been defined as “tension, strife, quarreling, or stress between spouses about the needs, wants, values, trajectory, or beliefs” (Tasew & Getahun, 2021, p.2).


Globally, different forms of marital conflict range from intimate partner violence, finances, spiritual challenges, infertility, family size (desired number of children), prearranged marriage, extended family intrusions, lack of shared responsibilities, lack of love language fulfillment, etc. (Osarenren, 2013). Marital conflict has consequences that affect one’s mental, physical, and emotional condition and functionality.


Couples often come to counseling seeking communication strategies that bring resolution to their issues. John Gottman has completed extensive research which reports that 69% of issues couples face do not have a resolution (Gottman & Silver, 2015). Corresponding findings pertaining to communication have shown that 70% of communication is conveyed non-verbally.


Nonverbal communication is comprised of “body language, signals, facial expressions, manner of voice (tone), closeness, eye gaze, touch, physical form, and objects'' (Cherry, 2022). These elements make up more than the 30% of words left to leave an impactful notion. This means that words ought to hold further significance in its distribution.


So, if words are our only hope to bring change and resolve, we must condition our response to clarify our intention.



Be intentional

Intentional is defined as “done on purpose; deliberate; consciously aware” (Altman, 2022). This is where mindfulness comes into play by considering what, when, how, and why you want to say anything. Establishing meaning behind your communication makes it more purposeful and invaluable. Being intentional diminishes roadblocks and, perhaps, alleviates the pressure of reacting or responding negatively.


Initiate

In this phase, Hawkins (1992) suggests conveying dedication, demonstrating meekness, and sealing with positivity. All couples desire to know that their spouse will still choose them during times of conflict. Being able to reiterate that during the initiation of reconciliation is a powerful start.


During this conversation, the demonstration of humility offers a glimpse of transparency and remorse. Instead of taking up a self-righteous posture, each spouse allows themselves to be seen and empathized with. Finally, ending the conflict with optimism gives reassurance and offers a bid for engaging in consistent positive interactions.


Persistence

Communication mandates tenacity and renewed pursuit. Positive communication is distinguished by active listening, being thoughtful of the other’s feelings, pursuing understanding, and knowing one’s role or expectation. Active listening requires our undivided attention. Electronics should be out of sight, and eye contact given to your spouse. Eye contact can give clues as to what their spouse is saying, withholding, expressing with their body, and how they are feeling. Feelings are expressed more than they are said. Therefore, support through touch and soft body language will likely secure the space and conversation for the other spouse to verbalize their feelings.


Everyone seeks to be understood. Having the insight of our spouse strengthens the level of intimacy and permits them to be and feel known. Ultimately, in communication, one must always know their role. “Am I here to listen, or do you need counsel?” Knowing what is expected clarifies what is needed from you.


Most notably, communication has to be slowed down. We can miss what the other person is expressing, meaning, or feeling when we rush the process of communicating due to distractions, intolerance, or staying weighed down by past offenses. Continue to initiate, persist, and discern what conflicts can and must be resolved.





Victoria Barbour, LPCA, MFT-A


Victoria Barbour is a new clinician at Mindsight. In her free time, she participates in activities such as reading, complaining about birds, running from squirrels while walking with her mom, and trying to understand her homework. She can often be found at home cooking, listening to music, or watching tv shows from the 80’s, 90’s, daytime drama, action movies, and Christmas movies.






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References

  • Altman, L. (2022, August 26). Communicating intentionally ~ the basics. Intentional Communication Consultants. https://intentionalcommunication.com/communicating-intentionally-the-basics/

  • Cherry, K. (2022, October 12). Types of nonverbal communication. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/types-of-nonverbal-communication-2795397

  • Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country's Foremost relationship expert. Harmony.

  • Hawkins, R. E. (1992). Strengthening marital intimacy: Elements in the process. Baker Publishing Group (MI).

  • Osarenren, N. (2013). The impact of marital conflicts on the psychosocial adjustment of adolescents in Lagos Metropolis, Nigeria. Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies, 4(2), 320– 326.

  • Tasew, A. S., & Getahun, K. K. (2021). Marital conflict among couples: The case of Durbete town, Amhara region, Ethiopia. Cogent Psychology, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/23311908.2021.1903127

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