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   Home  > Articles

First Aid for Marriage

By Eric Bird of Family College for Marriage Resource

Handling conflict

Conflicts will surface over all sorts of issues. The most serious ones usually centre around money, sex and children. As you listen to the problem from both sides try not to get too bogged down in the detail. So often the issue is simply "I want to have my own way". Here we have the root problem - selfishness.

We should not deny that these problems are real. For example, conflict may arise over the wrong partner handling the family finances, when their true strengths lie elsewhere. Maybe the sexual demands of one are quite unreasonable. Perhaps the couple have differing views on child-rearing, based on their own childhood experiences. You may be able to offer help, or you may choose to refer them to a counsellor with specific training in such areas. Often the couple simply are not listening to each other and view their spouse as a rival or a competitor, not as a partner.

When the conflicts are not too severe, there are some simple things we can suggest. A fire is easy to put out when it's only just started. Try to get the couple to stand back from their conflicts especially if they disagree in front of you. Help them to identify a pattern of where things usually begin to go wrong. What actually triggers real conflict? What turns a discussion into an argument or a fight? Suggest that when an argument starts one of them tries something different. One of them has to break the cycle somewhere.

How easy is it to say:-

"I was wrong, I'm sorry".

How easy is it to say:-

"I forgive you".

If they do not break the conflict cycle with an apology and forgiveness, then anger is likely to be pushed down inside and make conflict more likely next time.

These things sound harder than they are. The words are quite simple but they can make a profound difference. And they are just as habit forming as arguments and fights! Just making a different response, where you know that the usual response will always cause trouble can have an amazing effect. For 20 years a couple argued over the husband's habit of burying himself behind the newspaper at breakfast time. One day he did something different: he took the paper to work to read at lunch-time.

Result : No more arguments and he still read the paper.

Often problems arise from the couple looking at situations from different angles.. A house looks different from the back compared to the front - but it is the same house - it just depends where you are standing. Encourage them to see this and to try to look at the situation from each others' point of view.

W/hat is the differece between these statements?

"You never help with the washing up."

"I would really enjoy it if we could do the washing up together sometimes."

The first one says YOU have a problem - you're lazy or selfish.

The second one says I have a problem - I'm finding it difficult to manage without your help.

How a message is received is so important. Maybe the couple just don't think about things enough before they speak.

If there is evidence of real violence it may be right for the abused person to get help from the Police or Social Services.

Different is not necessarily wrong

Life events


In this article
- Can I really help?
- What is expected of me?
- Try to avoid taking sides
- Listening
- Where are they coming from, and where do they want to go?
- Different is not necessarily wrong
- Handling conflict
- Life events
- Intimacy
- What next?
- A special kind of help

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