5 Ways You're Making Conflict in Your Marriage Harder for Yourself 

wife looking upset with husband looking away on couch, ways you're making conflict in marriage harder for yourself

I’d be a liar if I told you that my husband and I experienced newlywed bliss. In all reality, the honeymoon phase came and went as quickly as our wedding day.

Our honeymoon vacation was a war zone. My new birth control had thrown my body into a hormonal loop that my clinical Obsessive Compulsive Disorder used to catalyze an emotional tornado that packed a bag and made no plans to leave.

I’ll admit it: I instigated most of our fights. That’s not to say that he didn’t do some annoying stuff that justified my agitation, but I was always the one to channel my anger in all the wrong ways. It took over two years and lots of long, hard prayers for me to accept where I was to blame within the conflict. It took just as long for me to realize that conflict wasn’t always meant to be something that I boxed up and shoved in a corner, only to pull it back out and expose its unhealed insides when I wanted.

Maybe I can save you the extra two years and share five ways you’re making conflict in your marriage harder for yourself:

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  • couple arguing, how to civil in an uncivil world

    1. You’re playing to win.

    Even when I’m playing a board game, the goal is always to win. I don’t like losing. I don’t like being second best. It’s all or nothing in my world, and for the longest time, I used that same strategy in my marriage.  

    I was a pre-gamer too. When tension was obvious, when I was ready to spew, I’d stock up on ammo. I would have low blows, insults, and his most shamed failures ready to use when I thought I was losing the argument. In the back of my heart, I knew this was wrong. Every time. But I craved the upper hand. It seemed to give me some sort of control over the relationship, and I longed for control, for the win, more than unity.  

    It’s no joke when the Bible says, “Two are better than one.” Unity gives you the win; it gives you a life partner who’s in your corner on those days when you’re losing, when you’re your worst cheerleader. Unity gives you a peace, a steady ground, that will never come from trampling the other person just to chase a trophy.  

    Don’t go into an argument with insults ready. Don’t storm into the fight planning to win. While your insults might work, while you might get the upper hand, you’ll be left alone, standing on top of a pile of ash that you’ll be responsible for cleaning up.  

    Take the nasty conflict and turn it into conversation. Leave room for dialogue on both sides. That way, everyone has a fair chance, and everyone gets to win.

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  • wife looking frustrated and upset with husband

    2. You’re expecting him to think like a woman.

    In my first two years of marriage, my mom had to tell me over and over, “You’re expecting him to think like a woman. Stop it!”

    Men are not going to treat conflict the same way that women do. (Hence, God giving men and women a different set of chromosomes.) I always wanted Josh to understand the emotional side of why I was mad. Josh always wanted me to understand the logical side of why he was mad.

    Honestly, I’m still more driven by emotion and he’s still more driven by logic. That’s a DNA thing that will never change for both of us, but if you enter the conflict understanding how his brain works, you can strategically choose your approach in a way that allows his brain to process what you’re saying.

    Once the heat of the conflict is over, once the issue is resolved, don’t be afraid to explain to him that emotions, feelings, etc. are where you find resolution. Once you understand each other’s driving force, you’re creating healthy conversation rather than trying (and failing) to make the other think like you.

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  • 3. You’re trying to change him.

    You can’t change him. Sorry. That’s a heart thing between him and Jesus.

    Sure, you can love him toward a place where change is attractive, but using conflict as a chance to point out his flaws or tell him who he should be more like will only drive him further away from working toward a resolution.

    It’s taken lots of pride-swallowing (and still does), but I've realized that he’s more likely to change when I work on myself instead. If I prize the positive takeaways from arguments, if I genuinely learn lessons for me, then I bring a better self to the next conflict. He likely won’t say that he recognizes the difference, but he’ll see it. And that will naturally call him to step up.

    I think that’s why Jesus’ anthem always has been and always will be grace. If we extend grace to ourselves, so we can work on ourselves, and we extend grace to others, there’s this spiritual tendency for us to strive toward holiness together, without one dragging the other along.

  • woman looking like she's shrugging it off, whatever

    4. You’re expecting it to never happen again.

    If you think that you’ll only argue one time over the reality that he refuses to put his dirty socks in the hamper, you’ve forgotten that we as humans tend to make the same mistake twice.

    I tend to be a perfectionist. Many times, I make the argument worse because I’m frustrated that we’re arguing about something for a second, third, fourth time. Shouldn’t’ we (and by “we”, I mean you) have figured this out the first time? Shouldn’t you have mastered this? I thought we had resolved this issue.

    But, just as Jesus doesn’t expect us to perfect anything on this side of heaven, we can’t expect a man to be perfect. (We can’t expect ourselves to be perfect, either.)

    Frustrations will come and go, just like arguments. Some of that friction will be from petty things like dirty socks left on the floor (right beside the hamper), and other issues will stem from deep hurt and bad, bad choices. Regardless, we can’t set the standard of perfection so high that we make simple progress impossible.

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  • woman looking upset and worried

    5. You’re expecting it to happen again.

    On the flipside, when you constantly remind yourself that he’s never going to listen, never going to change, then you’re anticipating more fights. And when they come, you tend to pack a mean “Aha, I knew I was right!” punch. You start slinging fists because you were right about him dropping the ball.

    If you revel in his failures, he’ll learn to keep to himself. When you make it clear that you’re keeping a checklist of all his wrongs, he’ll give you as little room as possible to keep score.

    Silence is deadly. It blocks communication, not only bad communication, but good communication too. An invisible divide will forge its way into your home, and soon, you’ll forget the little things that make him your best friend.

    Choose to remember the good things and to let go of the bad. After all, that's what Jesus does. That’s what you want others to do for you.

    By no means am I a marriage expert. I still get good ole’ southern “blisterings” from my mama about how mean, angry, or petty I can be toward my husband. I mess up. A lot. But I’ve learned that if I can pause, breathe, and choose to give my husband the kind of grace that Jesus gives me, it gives me the freedom to let go of the anger and choose resolution.

    Now, that’s not to say that you should take abuse, that you should tolerate when a man uses his words or hands to hurt you. But when there are natural arguments that stem from a man and woman trying to figure out life together, grace is the best way to foster communication and better the friendship that makes a vow something worth clinging to.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes

    Peyton Garland is an author who uses her OCD, disdain for legalism, and obsession with Jesus rap to showcase just how good God's goodness is. She lives in the Atlanta suburbs with her boo, Josh, and their two furry babes, Alfie and Daisy.