Key to Successfully Navigating Conflict in Marriage


Conflict in marriage is inevitable. When two people live in close contact, having come from completely different backgrounds and experiences problems are going to arise. Some of the conflicts can be resolved however others may not be solvable and couples will need to learn to accept their differences and work around them.

According to Dr. John Gottman in his book “7 Principles of For Making Marriage Work” whether the problem is solvable or not it is important to make sure that your partner knows you understand then and accept them.

Understanding and Acceptance is Key

Whether or not you agree with your spouse on an issue, it is important to understand their point of view and have a basic acceptance of it. We need to feel accepted and understood before we consider changing.

John Gottman explains it this way:

Human nature dictates that it is

virtually impossible to accept advice from someone unless you feel

that that person understands you. So the bottom-line rule is that,

before you ask your partner to change the way he or she drives, eats,

or makes love, you must make your partner feel that you are

understanding.”  (Gottman p160)


Having your spouse accept your feelings is an important step to navigating conflict.

No-Fault arguments

Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that one spouse may be right and the other wrong. According to Gottman, there is no right or wrong in a marital conflict. Each spouse has their own perspectives and comes with their own experience. Understanding this helps in resolving conflict.

Maintain Friendship

It’s important that during conflicts especially, to keep it friendly and remember the love and admiration you have for your spouse. Lightening the mood or using humour can diffuse a stressful situation. It’s important to forgive your spouse for things that happened in the past and hold on to that forgiveness. By doing this, you remind your spouse that your relationship is stronger than the problem.


In his book, Dr Gottman shares some additional steps to resolve conflict

5 Step model for resolving conflict in a marriage

Step 1:  Soften your startup

Dr. Julie Gottman shared tips on how to complain to your partner without hurting their feelings:=

Start by saying “I am upset” or identify the feeling if you can, for example “I feel frustrated, sad, disappointed etc.

Say WHAT you are upset about – talk about the facts, not your spouse

Say what you need or what your spouse can do to  make the problem better

Step 2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts. Making a connection, apologizing, kind words, a touch etc. can reinforce your love an commitment to your spouse, even though you are not seeing eye to eye at that moment.

Step 3. Soothe yourself and each other. Make sure you calm down before engaging in an argument.

Step 4. Compromise. Rather than digging your heels in, offer to give up or do something towards resolving the conflict

Step 5. Be tolerant of each other’s faults – This is harder to do with families than it is for friends and strangers. With that in mind, consider treating your spouse as you would your company.

Navigating through conflict gracefully will strengthen your relationship whether or not the issue can be resolved and it will go a long way to fortify your marriage.

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