Overcoming Marital Conflict Essay, Research Paper
Overcoming Marital Conflict
Marriages are made, not in heaven, but by wonderfully fallible human beings
who hope for the best, but who often do precious little to make this most
challenging and complicated relationship work. From the very first couple and
their differing view point over the apple to modern times, men and women have
always disagreed. Both sexes are born with inherently different personality
traits. Although mankind knows they will never see eye to eye with the
opposite; they still are attracted to them, perhaps for that very reason.
Unfortunately it also means there will be unavoidable conflict in the union of
a woman and man. Woman’s inherent sexuality and the widely dissimilar sexuality
of her mate is one of the primary conflicts in marriage. They will also find
diversity in their views on sex, communication, emotional expression, nearly
every aspect in their lives.
Sex has made marriages and broken them. Great relationships do not always
translate into wonderful sex! Many couples love each other deeply, but still
don’t have a fulfilling sexual relationship. Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) wrote in
The New Spirit, “The omnipresent process of sex, as it is woven into the whole
texture of our man’s or woman’s body, is the pattern of all the process of life”.
This leads me to believe our sexuality is the core to ourselves.
Unfortunately there are so many variants between men and women emotionally that
unavoidable conflicts will surface in the bedroom. Adam and Eve are the only
union who ever had the freedom of entering marriage and lovemaking with no
preconceived ideas no hang-ups, and no inhibitions. Men and women each possess
different outlooks toward the act of sex. Most women need an emotional
connection prior to experiencing a truly satisfying sexual encounter. Whereas
men tend to avoid deeply emotional bonding. Men can be happy with superficial
love, not that all men stop there. Women also feel affection is the essential
cement of her relationship with a man. She marries a man that cares about her,
and she wants him to express his care often. Without it she usually feels
alienated from him. With it she will become emotionally bonded to him.
Learning the sexual outlook of each other’s partner will increase the ability to
deal with the sexual conflicts that materialize.
Fear of failure and rejection and the belief that something is wrong
infiltrates many sexual experiences. Case studies show that most couples who
complain of sexual problems in their marriages are really experiencing a deeper
problem. Letting go of assumptions, most of which come from books, movies, and
fantasies, and sharing desires and fears with their mate, their individual
sexuality can and will become more fully and freely expressed.
Communicating feelings and desires is the key to sexual contentment.
Conversation in the state of intimacy should be respectful and non-judgmental.
Partners, who share mistakes and failures, will see a closer bond of friendship
and trust result. Not only can they learn to be closer through the success of
their mate, but also in recognizing the vulnerable humanity from their failures.
Couples can learn to express the deep love for each other and gratitude for the
mutual care of one another. By lowering their defenses and forming a close
emotional bond by communicating, they’ll feel greater pleasure when meeting each
others needs. This is the way marriage was meant to be.
Just as men find sex enjoyable in it’s own right, most women enjoy
conversation simply because they like to converse. While most men have a need
for communication, this need is usually greater in women. This difference is
often a source of great frustration. Marriage counselors report that nearly one
half of all the couples they see have serious problems communicating.
Communication is extremely important in all areas of life, but in the intimate
state of marriage it is vital. Therapists agree that although most couples have
a sincere wish to actively discuss their sexual tensions they are unable to
communicate successfully. This could be caused by their lack of communication
skills. The average person may attend one formal class on effective
communication in their lifetime. With the help of a disinterested party or
working together, a husband and wife may initiate discussion of sexual problems.
Several roadblocks to keeping the channel of communication open may be a mutual
on singular unwillingness to compromise in resolving conflict, or inability to
share personnel thoughts. Some individuals may honestly be ashamed or
embarrassed to discuss sex. Normally such behaviors stem from prudish
upbringing. Other’s may be afraid frank discussion would hurt their mate’s
feelings or pride. The greatest roadblock, in my opinion, is the couple who
refuse to admit there is a problem. This practice of repressing emotions will
only come back to haunt the couple elsewhere in their relationship. There is
nothing wrong with conflicts, provided they are used constructively to improve
communication and strengthen relationships. Communication especially during
intimate relations is essential to avoid conflict.
By the time people reach adulthood, they have developed clear pictures of
what it means to be a man or a woman as defined by their society, and these
images have important effects on their sex behavior. Our culture’s definition
insists that passivity and dependency are the core to femininity while
aggressiveness and independence are the central features of masculinity.
Society contends that mankind must comply to these rigid standards, or they be
looked upon as outcasts. In fact, society almost forces men to be the stronger
partner, the provider. I believe the reason a man cannot comfortably express
inner feelings is it makes them vulnerable to their mate, becoming weak in her
eyes. She of course wants nothing more than to share all her most inner
thoughts and dreams, rarely experiencing that feeling of nakedness upon baring
her soul. Perhaps another reason men find it harder to display physical acts of
emotion stems from societies disapproval of soft men. It is accepted and
seemingly encouraged for a woman to openly display emotion. From childhood
little boys were programmed to “stop crying like a girl” whereas little girls
were coddled if they were hurting. These two varying psychological profiles set
a pattern from childhood how men and women display emotion. For men and women
raised in that way overcoming misunderstanding brought on by incompatibility of
feelings is hard, but not unachievable. Realizing men and women are emotional
opposites is half the battle. Emotions are the matrix of a persons experiences
and expectations. They cannot always be matched, but they can be looked at
calmly and tenderly for clues that will help an individual better love and
understand their partner for life.
A marriage which is supposed to be for life, is filled with endless conflict.
Marriage thrives in an atmosphere of perfect honesty and openness. Mankind gets
along by sharing feelings, fighting with one another, and then by forgiving one
another. Failure to meet these requirements will cause a breakdown in the core
marital relationship. If a couple does not share feelings they will never get
to the heart of their problem. This is the step where good communication skills
come into play. Some spouses who claim they never fight, are probably not
sharing their true feelings. In most cases a fight will result especially if
both partners feel differently about the issue. Luckily fighting can also lead
to forgiveness, which can make a marriage well again. Forgiveness can be
extraordinarily difficult, but it is not impossible, and it is crucial to a
relationship. An African proverb states, “He who forgives ends the quarrel.” If
partners can forgive they must forget as well. To forget is imperative to
maintain trust in the relationship. Only by working together, practicing
empathy, and a lifetime commitment to overcoming conflict will spouses flourish
in their marriage.
Some conflicts, as we have just seen, are inevitable in marriage because no
two persons have exactly the same personality, attitudes and values. Our
cultural training leaves most of us drastically unprepared to deal well with
conflict. Marriage does not have to be a battleground; couples must learn to
deal with these differences using patience, wisdom, understanding, and love, and
a beautiful relationship will evolve. When I married, my mother told me to give
my husband everything he wants, and we will always be happy. That may have
worked for her, but I have found mutual cooperation in overcoming marital
conflict brings a satisfaction almost chemical in intensity, a kind of cheap
high. It comes down to commitment. A genuine marriage is a pledge of faith
that we love enough to go into the future, with the confidence that another
person is our lifelong devotion. It is also the humble reception of another
persons’ faith in our being worthy of his or her lifelong devotion. Commitment
to each other is “forever and a day” and that is the framework for which a
marriage should operate.
Partners In Love: Ingredients for a Deep and Lively Marriage, Alanson B.
Houghton, Walker and Company, NY, @1988
Intimate Strangers: Men and Women Together, Lillian B. Rubin, Harper Perennial,
Together Forever, Anne Kristin Carroll, Zondervan Publishing House, MI, @1982