6 styles of conflict in marriage - which one are you?


Conflict.  The word alone can invoke a wide range of reactions and emotions.

Some of us are petrified of conflict, we’d consider giving our first born child if we could avoid it for the rest of our lives while others of us don’t have such a visceral reaction to it, we don’t love it by any means, but we can take it on alright.

Conflict is an inevitable part of relationships and marriage.

But contrary to what we may have always believed and feel, conflict does not mean that something is wrong with your marriage.  

The way you go about dealing with conflict and working through it may be unhealthy and damaging, but the actual conflict is not the problem in your marriage.  

A dear friend and marriage mentor of ours, Jeff Helton, for years has said, ‘the road to intimacy is paved through healthy conflict’ and that has proven true time and time again.

There are 6 negative styles of conflict.  There is room for vacillation between all types but we tend to have one style that we gravitate towards.  

Here’s the breakdown;

Avoiding:   Your classic ‘I hate conflict, so I’m going to act like nothing's wrong and nothing ever happened’ response.  Avoiders can minimize issues, taking something that may in fact be a big deal and whittling it down to something small so that its justifiable to avoid it for the sake of keeping the peace.  The issue with avoiding is just that; avoiding the problem, avoiding the issue doesn't make it go away. It stays there, it can fester over time, breed resentment and anger that later become a much bigger problem that it would have been if it was addressed earlier on.

Accommodating: this is your ‘go with the flow’ response.  Avoiders often put their own wants, needs and feelings on the back burner and accommodate whatever their spouse wants in order to avoid confrontation.  The problem with accommodating is that over time, you eventually lose your sense of self, your identity, who you are, what you want and what you need because you’ve spent years accommodating and catering to others wants and needs.  It can also breed resentment and anger that creates a hostile environment for a relationship.

Compromising: your compromiser is your wheeler and dealer, they are always looking to strike a deal and meet in the middle .  While there is great value and necessity at times in compromising when there is disagreement, the compromiser often defaults to this as the first tactic to avoid uncovering what may lie deeper underneath the conflict.  The compromiser will try to make everything ok so that neither party feels like they are losing when in the end, compromising can leave both parties feeling frustrated, unsatisfied with the outcome and like they haven't truly been heard.   

Confronting /Competing: this is your assertive, straightforward, cut-to-the-chase kind of person.  While they are not afraid to address the conflict and work through it, the confronters can be abrasive and demanding, leaving little room for the other party to have a voice or space in the relationship to verbalize their wants and needs.  This kind of conflict can create a volatile environment also leading to hostility and resentment.

Joking: the joker is the one who makes light of any situation or issue that breeds conflict.  While this can be needed at times when the conflict is miniscule and it may in fact need to be overlook or laughed off, it can becoming negative when used frequently and conflict is never addressed.  The joker can minimize and make light of issues that are not miniscule and that need to be addressed seriously and maturely.

Spiritualizing: This is one who tends to over-spiritualize matters.  While there is room for prayer and spiritual reflection in all areas of relationships, especially in conflict and disagreements, spiritualizing can become dangerous when it errs on the side of manipulation, control or enabling one party to avoid talking about the issue at hand.  

You may find that you identify with more than one of these styles.  All of us, at some point or another can fluctuate between all the styles  

It's helpful to know what your natural tendency is & what your spouse's natural tendency is so that you can avoid defaulting to the same negative style each time you experience conflict and start integrate new, healthier ways of working through conflict together.