“In any group of people there are different agendas,” said my friend, who ought to know because she has a PhD in psychology.
“And different agendas mean conflict.”
Now comes the important part. “A group is any number more than one!”
So a marriage is a group. That means two different agendas. And that means conflict.
There can be many reasons for conflict in a marriage.
1. Infidelity. Infidelity is involved in about one divorce in five. Some marriages can survive infidelity. But if there is another man or woman in your life, then you are not in a committed relationship and there is a problem with your marriage.
2. Domestic Violence. Verbal or physical violence is reason for divorce. Everyone has the right to be free from unwanted touching and physical harm. Words can hurt as much or more as physical pain. Spouses can be put out of the marital home for verbal or physical violence.
3. Control. Sometimes control is the issue. A husband may find success in the business world by exerting control. He tries to run his house the same way. A wife may stifle her emotional needs for years in the hopes that things will get better. Finally she leaves. Even if he tries to change now it is too late. She does not believe him.
4. Finances. Disagreement over finances may cause conflict. Opposites attract. A wife who is a saver might marry a spender. The wife might feel like she is rescuing the husband by providing order and a budget. The husband might enjoy the structure that the wife brings. But after a while, the restrictions are too binding and the husband rebels. The wife reacts by being even more strict than she normally would be on her own. Different financial strategies and philosophies can cause conflict in a marriage.
5. Parenting. People have different approaches to parenting. One parent may feel the other is too strict with the children. Another may feel the other parent is too lenient with the children and that the children need to learn independence. One parent may feel the other is lax about the children’s weight or medical problems. The other sees that parent as overprotective and perhaps even a hypochondriac.
There are alternatives to divorce. By the time people get to the lawyer’s office, they have usually made up their minds to get a divorce. But a few change their minds, or want to give their marriage one last chance. In that case, there are a few things you can try.
It is difficult to discuss these issues with your spouse. And some couples have no communication at all. You have to get your thoughts out of your head and into your mouth and then onto paper. Sometimes all it takes is sitting down at the kitchen table and talking to each other. However, most of us think that if we talk and talk, the other person will finally be persuaded that we are right. That will not work in this situation. You both have to listen and acknowledge what the other person has said before you speak.
Mediators are trained professionals who remain neutral and will help you reach agreements. It may be possible to negotiate a post-marital agreement to resolve some of the conflicts that have arisen in your marriage. In addition to finances, you can even include such details as who will cook meals, who will carry out the trash or how frequently you will have sex.
Counseling is a good way to figure out what to do. The marriage counselor will ask questions that help you think more clearly about what is going on and what you want. The marriage counselor will help the two of you communicate better with each other and provide ways for you to resolve your conflicts. When control is the issue in a marriage, sometimes all the couple needs is a good conflict resolution mechanism.