Every relationship has conflict. Some people call it fighting. Other people call it a disagreement. Whatever name you call it, there is still conflict in relationships. This is nowhere this is more evident than in marriage. I have had a few married couples in my lifetime try to tell me they never have conflict. I heard one speaker respond to this by saying, “then one of you is unnecessary”.
Sometimes conflict is necessary especially when there is an idea that needs to be refined or an issue that needs to be addressed. However, there are many times when we have conflict in our marriage that is unnecessary and could be avoided. It is the unnecessary conflict that I usually have the most regret about. Time lost. Words spoken. Things you can’t take back and usually over something very insignificant.
What leads to that unnecessary conflict? There are a lot of things that can cause a fight or dispute, but here are four of the most common things that will lead to unnecessary conflict in your marriage.
Everyone has expectations. We have expectations for our relationship and our spouse. The problem is that many of those go unspoken. Just because you have said it does not mean they have heard it. Thinking they will remember or follow through on something that you said in passing or when you were frustrated is probably expecting too much. If it is important, you should take the time to share with them when it is not an issue and at a time when they can pay attention to you. Many of our expectations we never express. We just go through the relationship frustrated because we have expectations that are not being met yet have not been communicated.
One of the most common unmet expectations deals with sex or intimacy. During premarital counseling, one of the questions I ask is “how many times do you expect to have sex each week?”. It is a little awkward, but the reality is they both have an expectation. If her expectation is once per week and his is three times per week then they have sex two times per week, she thinks she is exceeding expectations while he is disappointed and she doesn’t understand why. Verbalizing what your expectations are can help you avoid conflict in just about any area of marriage.
This connects to unspoken expectations. Often we assume they should know. In our mind, since it comes natural to us or it is important to us, then it must be important to them as well. Nothing could be further from the truth. The things that are naturally important to me are not so much so with my wife, and vice versa. If either of us assume the other will do what is important to us, then we will constantly have conflict. There is nothing more frustrating than to make an assumption about something that is important to you only to find out they were completely oblivious to what needed to be done. You have probably heard some form of what happens when you assume. If you haven’t, Google it. It is true way too often.
Another common thing that leads to unnecessary conflict is our attitude. When our spouse’s attitude is not quite right, we take it personally. We think it is directed toward us or is about us, when often that is not the case. When our attitude is wrong it doesn’t take long for everyone else to get theirs out of sorts as well. Sometimes, we are not aware of the way we are speaking or acting. Other times we do not work as hard on our attitude with our spouse as we might at work or in other public settings. The tone of our voice. The expression of our face. The body language that we have. All of this sends a message to our spouse and they are responding to it. When our attitude is off kilter we may say something that leads to an unnecessary conflict.
Just because it needs to be said or done does not mean it needs to be said or done now. Just because it is true does not mean the timing is right to say it. There are a lot of factors that should be considered when saying something to your spouse or taking an action, but timing has to be at the top. Have you ever said exactly the right thing at exactly the wrong time? It was true. It needed to be said. It was something that should have been addressed. But the timing was completely wrong and it had little or no positive effect. If anything, it had the opposite effect. Timing matters in relationships. Too many unnecessary conflicts have happened in marriage because our timing was off.
What things start unnecessary conflict in your marriage? I suspect these four make your list. Maybe you have some insight into some other things that lead to a fight. If so, share them with us in the comments section. If we can be more aware of these things, it will reduce the time we waste in conflict that is unnecessary.