Tips to deal with conflict in a marriage

Marriages are made in heaven, but can be destroyed here on earth! A silly fight, where you kiss and make up in a matter of minutes, is fine. In fact, it can actually be good for a relationship; it would be boring if you didn't have little disagreements. But a serious, full-blown conflict that results in a stalemate where neither partner is ready to concede defeat, is detrimental to a marriage.

Conflict occurs in any relationship, but in a marriage, it assumes more alarming proportions because of the emotional undertones inherent in the relationship. Studies have revealed that men and women find it easier to handle conflict with strangers or with men/women who are not their spouses. It is something about a relationship and more so, marriage, that makes conflict more difficult to handle.

TIP: Download the guide to making up with your partner.

Conflict in a marriage may cover a gamut of topics typically ranging from finance, responsibilities and household tasks to decisions regarding children, relationships with in-laws etc. You cannot consciously guard against conflict; in fact, it is fairly normal and is bound to occur between two partners in a marriage. In reality, it is not conflict that can determine the fate of a marriage, but how you handle the conflict and constructively work towards its resolution. Some advice:

1. Try and stay focused.

If you were arguing about finances for instance, don't drag unrelated issues like how he forgot to take out the trash last week. Don't rake up the past or bring up grievances that will make your partner feel defensive and clam up.

2. Try and Listen.

Listen to what your partner has to say. In any relationship and more so, in a marriage, communication is of utmost importance. And a very important part of communication is not just vocalizing your feelings but devoting a fair amount of time to listening as well. In a conflict, listening assumes even more significance.

Take a moment to stop thinking about yourself and what you want to say and give your full attention to what your partner is trying to tell you. Keep an open mind and try to absorb both, the content as well as the underlying emotions when your partner is trying to convey something. And try to avoid formulating in advance what your reply is going to be - it will close you off from effective listening.

3. Try and stay calm.

As hard as it may be, and as impossible as it may seem, try not to get too agitated and worked up. And more so, don't simply go into a shell and withdraw. It leaves your partner feeling helpless and can also cause resentment to fester and worsen the situation. You might have been able to get away with being moody and slamming doors when you were still dating, but your partner won't be tolerant for very long. Hurling abuses and getting nasty also won't solve the problem. If you feel you're too angry to discuss things rationally, take a few deep breaths or request some time out. But don't put off discussing things for too long. It's best to try and resolve things when you're calmer and you won't say something you'll regret. And try and avoid personal attacks that will only cause the situation to escalate. Saying something offensive about him or how irritating you find his mother, will only make the situation worse.