Recently, Terry Gaspard wrote in the Huffington Post about whether a marriage can thrive if there is unresolved conflict between the two partners. She notes that conflict can exist in a marriage, but that it must be managed properly and that compromise is a key factor.
Gaspard refers to Dr. John Gottman, who has studied this issue extensively. Gottman’s research shows that a full 69% of problems that exist in a marriage go unresolved, but that they can be successfully managed by the couple. In fact, differences between partners can actually be an advantage in the relationship.
He gives the example of a couple where the man is messy and thinks his wife puts too much emphasis on neatness. During counseling, the two agree that she can live with some clutter as long as he does his laundry. He asks for acknowledgement of the things he does well, such as cooking and being supportive to his wife.
Compromise! Perhaps it is the key to any successful relationship. As long as the things couples disagree with aren’t deal-breakers, a couple can learn to live with the idiosyncrasies of their partners. Negotiation and diplomacy are important to being able to find a compromise.
Sometimes, a “good” argument can actually be helpful to bring an issue to the surface and get it out in the open as well. Gottman refers to Michele Weiner Davis, who says that people may avoid a conflict because they have learned from their past that arguing led to the end of previous relationships. Certainly, cyclical arguments that never get resolved can only damage a relationship.
However, a healthy argument can be more like a discussion where two people disagree on an issue. Burying an issue means that your partner doesn’t have an opportunity to learn, and perhaps, make different choices concerning their actions.
Gaspard also references Dr. Gottman’s seven steps that couples can take for handling conflict effectively. Among these include, creating a calm setting for the discussion, the use of “I” statements, and knowing when to take breaks.
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