Even though conflicts are common in a marriage, some types are destructive and can contribute to the breakdown of the relationship. Forms of conflict range from minor, solvable problems to issues that perpetually cause disagreements and never seem to go away completely. In an extreme form, conflict can even lead to violence. Understanding the difference between constructive and destructive conflict can help you acknowledge and avoid disagreements that could have negative consequences for your marriage.
Money and Job-Related Conflict
Conflict over financial problems and employment is common in some marriages. When a couple suffers from inadequate income or joblessness, discussions regarding the distribution of available funds may result in conflict. This can also be the case when one partner has extreme spending habits or trouble managing money. Other job-related issues that lead to conflict include inadequate time spent with the spouse due to work responsibilities and one partner making less money than the other and feeling insignificant in the marriage.
In families that include children, conflict may occur regarding child rearing or a child’s behavior patterns. This is especially the case when one parent is lenient and the other is strict. As noted by Karen Stephens, director of the Illinois State University Child Care Center, the presence of two very different parenting styles negatively affects the children's and the parents' relationships. Marital conflict might also occur because of disagreements over the child’s friends or extracurricular activities
Conversations about sensitive subjects such as lack of intimacy, concerns about infidelity and sexual issues often lead to conflict. This is exacerbated when the couple has difficulties communicating. Discussions about sexual complaints are especially hard to get through without an argument developing. As noted by Sharon Leigh and Janet Clark of the University of Missouri, conversations about sexual difficulties should be approached directly but in a gentle manner that does not upset either partner.
How you manage conflict with your spouse determines whether or not the conflict will be helpful or destructive to your marriage. Conflict that leads to extreme anger or instigates violence, for example, can destroy a relationship. Constructive conflict, on the other hand, is managed and resolved without intense emotions or fighting. Couples that maneuver marital disagreements in a way that does not lead to hostility and resentment often find that conflict strengthens the marriage.
Ayra Moore is a professional writer who holds a Masters of Science in forensic psychology with a specialty in mental health applications. She also obtained a Bachelor of Arts in general psychology and criminal justice from Georgia State University. Moore worked for two years with at-risk teenagers in a therapeutic setting.