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Opinions of Thursday, 9 July 2020

Columnist: Samuel Danso

Marital conflicts: Causes and resolution

Opimion piece by Samuel Danso Opimion piece by Samuel Danso

Marriage is an intimate union and equal partnership between a man and a woman who derives affection from each other. The definition of marriage varies around the world not only between cultures and religions, but also throughout the history of any given culture and religion where interpersonal relationship exist. Marital conflict among couples is inevitable with divorce, a common experience in our culture. Conflicts between married people are not necessarily destructive since they provide valuable clues that show the growing edges of the relationship and the areas that need to be worked on in making it richer and deeper.

Conflict, an inevitable fact of life, refers to the opposing ideas and actions of different entities which results in an antagonistic state or the disagreement between people due to perceive incompatible goals. As couples progress deeper into their relationships, it is inevitable that opinions and feelings may differ. Conflict becomes destructive when individuals’ "weapons" are turned against each other instead of the problem. If these issues are ignored, it may just set the stage for a painful explosion of built up anger. In that direction, pride, selfishness, suspicions and confusion or matters left unresolved from the past enters into the marriage. In most cases, some of the marital conflicts are expressed in delicate ways such as verbal abuse, stoic silence, open criticism, threats, ironic and humiliating comments. These strategies tend to weaken the marriage.

One of the causes of marital conflicts among couples is the fact that they fail to understand the individual differences that exist between them. Marital conflicts are natural because individuals are unique with different temperaments, tastes, habits, likes and dislikes. Temperament is a fundamental disposition of the soul, which manifests itself whenever an impression is made upon the mind and is part of the features of one’s personality that are present at birth and have a genetic or biological basis. The four main temperaments are choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic. Each possesses unique characteristics.

By nature, people who are choleric and sanguine are extroverts while melancholic and phlegmatic are introverts. The negative traits of choleric such as being bossy, impatient, quick tempered, unsympathetic, and too impetuous affects marriage relationships. Sanguine are optimists and talkers in marriage. When Melancholies sink to their weaknesses they become destructive to themselves and those close to them. Phlegmatic personality is low-key, easygoing and relaxed.

Knowledge in temperament helps in understanding how couples could complement each other instead of looking at their differences as annoyances.

Another cause that can easily generate conflict in marriages is communication. On an interpersonal level, the most common factor cited as causing marital breakdown is poor communication skills among couples. Most couples are not able to clearly and assertively define their needs to avoid the build-up of resentment or anger which becomes destructive to the marriage. Partners frequently express that their emotions have not been acknowledged. Ineffective communication can hurt individuals, damage relationships and undermine the possibility of resolving problems. Where communication is poor, couples experience emotional isolation, uncertainty, neglect and sexual difficulties and sometimes seek intimacy outside the primary relationship.

Infidelity among either couple is another cause of marital conflict. Infidelity refers to a breach of the expectation of sexual exclusivity. Infidelity can comprise of a number of activities including having an affair, extramarital relationship, cheating, sexual intercourse, oral sex, kissing, fondling, and emotional connections that are beyond friendships. Disclosure of infidelity by a partner may cause feelings of deep pain, hurt, anger and resentment to the non-offending partner and feelings of guilt, shame and loss in the involved partner.

Domestic violence also plays significance role in marital disputes. The cycle of violence that often repeats from one generation to the next puts marriage under threat from the outset. Violence and the abuse of power are evident in all types of families with many men viewing their partners and children as their property. More evidence on social media attests to the fact that violence is a major contributor to the breakdown in relationships.

Julia Wood, in her book, Interpersonal Communication, identified three approaches that couples could adopt in resolving conflicts. They are: lose-lose, win-lose and win-win approaches.

Lose-lose approach is used in resolving conflicts in marriages which are unhealthy and destructive. It uses negative approaches and couples who uses it try to avoid conflicts at all times. It thrives on deferring one’s needs and unable to give honest feedback. However, this approach does not help much when dealing with conflicts with close-relation such as marriage.

Win-lose approach emphasizes that one of the couples wins at the expense of the other. Couples who adopts this approach perceive disagreement in marriage as battles that has only one winner. In this instance, when one of the couples win, the other losses. This type of resolution is normally seen in cultures that place emphasis on individualism, self-assertiveness and competition. However, this approach undermines relationship in marriage since the other couple has to lose.

Win-win orientation also assumes that there are ways in resolving conflicts among couples for each partner to benefit mutually. When couples adopt pragmatic approaches in dealing with all impasses for the benefit of each other, a win-win resolution is achieved.

In addition, one of the most powerful tool towards resolving marital impasse is the power of apology. Most couples have a hard time rendering apology to their partners. Some people are of the view that when you apologize, it means that you have admitted your guilt which is a threat to your ego.

Apology leads to forgiveness, heals indignity and recover a spoiled relationship. Saying “sorry” means that you have chosen your relationship over your ego. Eventually, you develop a sense of self-respect and the ability to move on quickly. If you really value the power of apology, then the relationship will go a long way.