Sunday, 24 March 2019

C Columns

Understanding Relationships: Problems in Your Marriage? Congratulations

By Gary Moore

In 1 Corinthians 7:28 Paul tells us that those who marry will have troubles.  Contrary to Paul’s statement, we often think perfect marriages are those that have no troubles. In our more reflective moments we know from experience that there are no people without issues or troubles. And, when you take two imperfect people and put them together, “human algebra” does not produce a trouble-free marriage.  All too often we find our relationship is too scriptural.

Often the way we handle problems, more than the problems themselves, can be the problem. Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of human relationships. People in a relationship are going to have differences, and relations will not always be harmonious. And as partners become closer, these differences inevitably will cause some disagreements. However, the fact that conflict exists in intimate relationships does not necessarily mean that love is absent. In fact, conflict can be beneficial to a relationship if it is handled and resolved in a healthy way.

According to many therapists, how effectively couples deal with anger and conflict is critical to their relationship growth. Without effective conflict resolution skills, a couple’s relationship will become stagnant and will decrease in vitality. Although people need to focus on improving their skills to effectively resolve conflict, resolving every conflict is an unrealistic expectation. Dr. John Gottman found in his extensive research that, on average, 69 percent of the happiest marriages did not resolve all of their conflicts. These couples learned how to deal with their conflicts with mutual understanding and respect.

When you think of the word “conflict,” what images come to mind? Are these images positive or negative? The first stumbling block to conflict understanding and resolution is probably a faulty perception of conflict itself. If two individuals immediately see conflict as negative, and therefore avoid talking about it, their relationship will suffer.

Conflict is common and it does not have to damage a relationship. Rather, problems arise when couples have not worked out a mutually acceptable way of managing conflict. According to a national survey of 21,501 married couples conducted by Olson and Olson, the top five issues regarding conflict resolution for couples were: (1) One person ends up feeling responsible for the problem; (2) I go out of my way to avoid conflict with my partner; (3) Differences never seem to get resolved; (4) We have different ideas about the best way to solve disagreements; (5) We have serious disputes over unimportant issues. And, according to the survey, most couples disagree on the issue of who is responsible for a given problem.

Just as perceptions about conflict get in the way of empowering your relationship, views of anger also can inhibit intimacy. Keep in mind that, like conflict, anger can be a natural aspect of a close relationship. It may seem strange that we can be polite and considerate to strangers and yet be cruel to our partners whom we love. The reality is that closer relationships offer more opportunities for anger to arise than casual acquaintances do.

Anger is a destructive emotion that only intensifies conflict. But anger is usually a symptom of some issue within the relationship that needs to be addressed and possibly changed. Feelings of anger must be dealt with carefully and deliberately. In a moment of rage it’s easy to say something that you haven’t thought of yet. And the problem is, the words can’t be taken back and your partner may have a very hard time ever forgetting them.

Remember one of the key rules of communication: Until the emotions of the situation are dealt with, the facts don’t matter. If you or your spouse is in one of these situations, back off — take some time for your emotions to calm down.

Thinking through your anger is not the same thing as suppressing it. Suppressed anger is dangerous to a relationship because it means that there was never an attempt to resolve the issue. In this case the issue will simmer beneath the surface, often causing resentment, which can poison the relationship. So, instead of concealing your anger or blowing your stack, be intentional about identifying the source of your feelings and then discuss it as calmly as you can with your partner.

Most couples are afraid of the negative emotions associated with dealing with problems. A common response is to ignore the issue, hoping it will disappear with time. However, unaddressed problems continue to fester and may eventually lead to feelings of bitterness or even hatred. According to an extensive study by relationship educator Howard Markman and colleagues, avoidance is one of the key relationship patterns that is predictive of unhappiness and divorce.

Problems? Congratulations. All relationships have them. Some of the keys are: identify them when they’re small; own them; and have a way worked out to address them that respects and preserves both of you and the relationship.

Gary Moore is currently a part-time staff member at Cloverdale Church of God in charge of Adult Education. He's served as associate pastor there for the past 11 years. He's principal of .003 Coaching, providing life coaching, couples' coaching and business coaching locally and around the country. He also does a weekly radio program on KBXL 94.1FM on Fridays at 8:45 a.m. called Life Point Plus. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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