Conflict in Marriage: What's Actually Going On + Resolution


What’s actually going on

The conflict is hardly ever about what the conflict is about.  

There is often the event that sparks the conflict.

But behind the event, there is an issue that the event brings to light.

And behind the issue is often a deeper, underlying issue.

So in reality your conflict has 3 layers:

The event

The issue

The underlying issue

An example of one of our conflicts from our first year of marriage was;

Event: He made the bed up, I didn't like the way he did it, so no only did I remake it, but I also let him know that he didn't make up the bed the way I liked it rather than thanking him for his help.  He got angry (understandably) and said some unkind things back to me.

Issue: My ingratitude and then his unkindness

Hiddenissue:  My unrealistic and unreasonable standards and his deeply rooted feeling of ‘I’m never good enough.’

When you are able to look past the event causing tension and at the issue, often you begin to understand the other person's perspective and have compassion.

When you get to the underlying issue, this is where connection can take place if both parties are kind, willing and vulnerable.

It can be challenging to uncover the issue and address it rather than the event.  It’s even harder to unearth the underlying issue, but if you can get past the event, to the issue and underlying issue, often you will find that the event no longer matters and you are able to understand and connect with one another in a way that brings you closer through to conflict.    

Addressing & resolving conflict

Whether you tend to be an avoider, accommodator, compromiser, confronter, joker, or spiritualizer, addressing conflict is challenging.

The initial address of the conflict can really set the trajectory for how the conversation will lend itself and how you will find resolution.  

One of my favorite marriage resources The Lasting App gives this fantastic formula to us address issues & conflict with.

WXYZ statements

W - Situation or factual event:  ‘yesterday when. . . ‘

X -  Behavior, not a character trait or accusation: ‘when you did . . . ‘

Y -  Feeling ‘I felt. . . ‘

Z -  Want ‘and I want. . . ‘

An example of an WXYZ statements looks like

‘Yesterday I asked you to roll the trash can out to the street & you said that you would after you were done watching Netflix (W).  But then you forgot (X). Now I feel angry because the trash can is full and we have to wait another week for it to be emptied (Y). I want to find a way to make sure the trash can gets taken to the street before pick up at 8am on Friday mornings without you forgetting and me nagging you about it (Z).’

If you can begin by addressing conflict in the most objective way as possible, with an WXYZ statement or similar way, resolution will often be easier to come about

Let’s be clear here, resolving conflict is not synonymous with agreeing.  

We must not mistake resolution for agreement or we may never find what we are seeking.

Resolving conflict simply means settling on a solution or deciding on a plan of action.

Resolution doesn't always mean you’ll have a win-win outcome nor does it mean that one party will win and the other will lose.  

Sometimes will in fact agree on what resolution looks like and what a gift.

Resolving conflict is where you experience that balance, the delicate dance of holding on and letting go, speaking up and biting your tongue, fighting for what you what and believe and dying to yourself and your desires.  

Ultimately, resolution can only come through honesty, vulnerability and a willingness and commitment to one another and your relationship.