Helping Couples Manage Conflict


pic-6-300x200The innate nature of human beings to step on the toes of others is what leads to conflict. Conflict in itself is not bad rather it brings awareness to areas in need of change, growth, and nurture. Smalley and Smalley indicate that conflict is inevitable in any relationship. It is bound to happen. However, it is vital to understand what drives conflict. Conflict is driven by a push on the emotional buttons of other people. Emotional buttons are sensitive areas in people that tend to be easily aroused when pushed. The reactions that stem from pushing someone’s button tend to make matters worse. Stepping on the toes of another in marriage can be very irritating and the things we do to address the issue tend to keep things stagnant. In other words, the way we react causes more harm than good. We try to determine who is to blame, who is right and who is guilty of wrongdoing, we enter a fact finding mode demanding the truth and nothing but the truth. These quests are often fruitless because they are clouded with the urge for revenge. Ecclesiastes 7:21 asserts, “Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you” (NKJV). This biblical passage urges us not to take everything said about us personally rather let it pass so as to avoid trouble. Taking things said about us to heart often leads to retaliation and revenge. The outcome is always ugly. When there is a conflict, people either fight or flee. Those who choose to fight may become defensive, critical, angry, belittle their spouse, escalate etc. Conversely, those who chose to retreat become withdrawn, passive aggressive, stuffed up with their feelings, shut down, negative towards their spouse etc. In the past, when my buttons are pushed, I usually react by getting angry and then withdraw into my shell. The irony is that the problem remains and never gets resolved. The danger is that things remain stuffed up inside and may someday explode or spiral out of control. With these reactions that stem from our buttons being pushed, having a negative believe about your spouse is very destructive. This is because ones you’ve validated a negative or positive perception of your spouse and have validated such perception in your brain, you begin to view your spouse’s words and actions in that way, thus, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (NKJV). Basically if you anybody considers something unclean, then for that person it is unclean. Therefore if you consider your or perceive your spouse in a negative way, then he or she becomes to you that which you perceive him or her to be.

Stepping on another’s toes can be fatal. This is because the way we react creates rivalry in the relationship which ultimately leads to feelings of insecurity in the bond. When couples begin to feel insecure in their union, their souls shut down and they detach.

Reactions that are centered on defense, withdrawal, criticism, anger etc. do not work and are not relational. Better strategies need to be utilized in other to achieve the desired results. Strategies that will help couples describe their buttons, reactions, and feelings to each other are desirable. It will help them work on better ways to react in the face of conflict.


Smalley, G., & Smalley, E. (2015). The fear dance: Helping couples manage conflict