How many times have we heard the word conflict and frozen with all sorts of ideas going on in our minds? Thoughts such as, he is going to leave me or we are breaking up start to plague our thoughts and minds. We are quick to think that the presence of a problem or conflict instantly indicates the lack of affection, love or even commitment. The reality is that conflict is perfectly normal in any relationship and in marriage and it is a sign that there are two human beings in the marriage.

Conflict could manifest as controversy caused by differing ideas or actions, a prolonged struggle or strife. Whilst conflict is inevitable in marriage, the degree of the conflict and how long its been going on for could indicate a serious problem. Conflict could be seen as the instrument that measures the level of tolerance, affection and love in a marriage. It is able to expose the state that the marriage is in. The stronger the marriage, the easier it is for the couple to manage conflict. Conflict, if managed properly helps us to navigate our differences with compassion, understanding, appreciation and acceptance of each other.

Whenever you see that two people in a married relationship start to bicker over small and silly things and have no goodwill towards each other, it may be a sign that something fundamental is wrong and proper care has to be taken to ensure that the marriage does not erode beyond repair. In a conflict situation, you may find that the same things that drew the two of you to each other or that you loved about each other before marriage are the same things that you will start to attack in each other.

When issues of conflict arise, our first instinct leads us to believe that it isn’t our fault but the other person. Our reaction therefore is to deflect the problem away from ourselves as much as is possible. And so rather than take ownership, we pass the blame. We blame our spouses for the things they did and what they made us do. We forget that each time we pass the buck to someone else, we also lose the ability to own the solution. A lot of people believe that none of the things that are wrong with their marriage or relationship has anything to do with them. It is always the other person who isn’t right, who is too arrogant, who needs help, needs to be more patient and more loving. We forget that it does take two to create a conflict situation. Thomas Carlyle puts it this way, “the greatest of faults… is to be conscious of none.” We tend to judge others according to what they do but judge ourselves according to our intentions. And so therefore what we judge in others, we excuse in ourselves.

So what are some of the best ways of resolving conflicts since we cannot avoid them?

1. We need to examine ourselves objectively and scrutinize our own position on issues. This is because the conflict we see around us sometimes is only a reflection and extension of the conflict within us.

2. Take ownership and don’t pass the blame. This helps you to partake in  owning the solution.

3. Be cognizant of how you are different from others and vice versa and realize that some of the things we conflict about are purely simple things based on our preferences. So harness the differences rather than fight them. Be respectful also of others’ opinion and don’t invalidate how they feel.

4. Show empathy. According to Bernard Guerney Jr. as stated in Trading Places by Drs Les and Leslie Parrott, “A marriage where even one partner is very deficient in empathy is very unlikely to be a satisfying marriage. And a marriage wherein both parties have empathy in abundance is likely to be a very satisfying and happy one.”

5. Find a way forward together. I learnt sometime ago from a marriage seminar that we must remember that we are not each other’s enemy but that the issue is what we need confront together. Avoid bringing up the past or insist on clinging to outdated opinions of each other. And finally, the word of God says that if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men Rom. 12:18. This could be our spouses, siblings, children and this admonition will apply to any relationship we have.