Don't Fear Conflict in Marriage
Updated: Feb 25
Anyone who has been married or even in some sort of committed relationship for an extended period of time knows firsthand that conflict happens. We are imperfect humans with differing opinions, likes, dislikes, and ideas. When you get two people living together, disagreements are inevitable.
I am naturally a conflict avoider. A peacemaker, if you will. There have been times where friends of mine were squabbling with each other and I would jump in to mediate to try and diffuse the situation. Debates make me uncomfortable. Arguments give me anxiety (even if I have nothing to do with the argument).
My husband did and said something once that had a profound impact on me during a small problem we had. My husband did something that really upset me. I felt very dumb for my feelings because the thing he did was so small, so insignificant, and really wasn't anything bad. See, I'm the kind of person that really attempts to evaluate any relational related issues. I test it in my mind first, wanting to know if the "problem" is A) something I simply need to get over and/or not let be a problem in the first place OR B) something worth talking about and working through. Since the "issue" was so gosh darn silly, I wanted to get over my feelings and move on. But I was so upset, I went to the other room and cried like a baby. I didn't want my husband to see that I was bothered because I didn't want this to become a big problem when it was truly so DUMB. I wanted to avoid the conflict. I was afraid.
Of course, he caught me. He asked what was wrong and I blubbered about how it was really nothing and that it shouldn't be a problem in the first place. My sweet man looked me in the wet red eyes and said, "If something is bothering you this much and making you cry, then no matter how big or small it seems, it is worth talking about!"
This impacted me. He validated my feelings. He was saying that what I was feeling was real, even if the problem at hand was small. Another huge component to our interaction was how he created a safe place for me. "I want to fix it and work with you" was his attitude. We were able to face the conflict, problem solve, and still be friends afterwards. There was no fighting, no malice, no defensiveness. I felt heard and understood even when I could barely understand myself.
Fear of Conflict
My fear of conflict stems from past conflicts. Many times an issue would arise within a relationship and it would end up in fighting, yelling, and not feeling heard or understood. The track record was mucky. I figured taking on the responsibility or burying the issue in my heart was easier than facing it. The risk of hurting relationships or getting in trouble seemed not worth it in my mind.
If we allow the fear to take over, it will freeze us. I was frozen with fear when I ran to the bedroom to hide my emotions from my husband. Not because I was scared of him. I was scared of the conflict. Of ridicule. Of fighting. Of trying to convey my feelings only to be misunderstood or attacked.
When we can accept that conflicts are inevitable, we can be prepared rather than fearful. If you can build a solid foundation with your spouse and know that you can create a safe space for each other to be open, fear can be put aside.
Conflict is an opportunity for growth.
Approaching conflict with the purpose of solving a problem is beneficial. On the other side, conflict can be negative when approached with destructive intentions such as trying to do what it takes to win or impose your view on the opposite party.
Throughout our marriage I have found that when we face a conflict together and solve the issues, we are stronger as a couple. We grow and learn more about how the other person operates. What if I do or do not do something that really matters to my husband? I won't receive the opportunity to learn about that part of him if he keeps it hidden to avoid any potential conflict that may arise.
Having a little disagreement with your spouse is not a red flag that your marriage is in trouble. It's a reminder that the person you've committed your life to is still their own individual person.
When you see an older couple that has been married for many many years, and they are still happy and in love, you can bet they've navigated through a myriad of conflicts, disagreements, and perhaps even full blown fights. What separates them from the rest is their intentionality to be honest. Their humility which allows them to apologize for their wrongs or see a situation from the others' perspective.
It is always better to face issues head on rather than bury them. Burying things only plants seeds that will inevitably erupt into outbursts of bitterness, anger, or chaos.
With hard work, we can resolve anything. With practice we can learn to quiet the fear of conflict.