From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Marital conflict: couples' pathway to creative growth

One myth about being married or part of a couple is that all conflict is a problem. In reality, successful couples practice the art of conflict management as part of their daily communications. Conflict management, sometimes referred to as ‘fair fighting’, is designed to result in ‘win-win solutions’ and in constructive compromise so that both parties are satisfied with their solutions. Sound impossible? Well, its not.

 Presumably, when two people form a partnership, it is because they believe that together, they will be happier and more successful than either would be by remaining alone. Being partners suggests that you value each others’ opinions, thoughts, feelings and perceptions. So, it is presumed that if a problem exists, by bringing it to the other’s attention, the problem can be resolved in a healthy way. Thus, conflict is often a valuable pathway to creative growth as a couple. According to this model, bigger problems arise when individuals decide not to bring up problems for fear that they will be ridiculed, feel shamed, or blamed. More than conflict itself, conflict avoidance is what leads to a break-down in partnerships. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

One of my favorite pastimes over the years has been watching my animals play. My cats wrestle and chase each other daily.  My dogs once won a tag-team wrestling award, though we were participating in an obedience training class. Members of the same species often fight, wrestle, establish dominance, and then go about their lives as the closest of friends.

Throughout nature, conflict is normal. As a human being, why not consider the virtue of just being your self. One warning, if you’ve been quietly pretending that your feelings don’t count, people will be surprised when you start saying how you really feel. As the famous psychiatrist Dr. Frederick Perls used to say, ‘they more you become yourself, the more people will accuse you of changing’! Don’t worry. In the long run, you will be happier and the absence of your anger will make you a lot more fun to live with.

©Copyright, 2004, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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