Bryan Craig Notes from Keynote Presentation - BM Conference 2016
Better Marriages Conference 2016
5-6 November, Kiama Baptist Church
Bryan Craig Keynote – Sunday Surviving the Marital Conflict Jungle
Virtually all couples have significant differences and disagreements. Surviving can be difficult!!
How we handle these disagreements can make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship; between a functional marriage and a dysfunctional marriage
How we treat each other in marriage is a strong determinant of marital satisfaction. Couples need to show patience, tenderness and be more light-hearted
“I hate conflict … I detest conflict … Once it erupts, conflict is difficult to control. Love only endures when dissension is faced openly …
We cannot find personal intimacy without conflict …
Love and conflict are inseparable.”
Robert Bolton “People Skills”
- Conflict is a natural, normal, unavoidable part of all relationships
- Conflict doesn’t just happen, it is created!!
- Managing conflict in a constructive manner is challenging for the best of us.
- The number one cause of divorce is not conflict but the avoidance of conflict
- When conflict is avoided or suppressed it can be disruptive and destructive
- Emotional connection is threatened when you stop listening to and respecting each other.
- The quality of your marriage relationship isn’t determined by how often you fightor what you fight about.What counts most towards marital happiness is HOW YOU FIGHT! It all depends on what you are saying and how you are saying it!!
- When conflict is dealt with effectively, you are able to reconcile your differences and intimacy deepens
Common Sources of Marital Conflict
- Money, Sex, Communication
- Relational and Family matters parenting; in-laws; work and leisure activities.
- Differences in Background or Family History cultural roles and values; showing empathy, affection,and appreciation; religion.
- Personality differences introvert/extrovert; self-disciplined; assertiveness; stress management.
- Gender differencesm differences in communication style; discrepancies in sexual desire.
Hidden Issues in Marital Conflict
Power - a struggle for control
Feeling unloved - needing greater security and care to facilitate greater connection
Recognition - helps couples feel valued for who they are!
Commitment - creates feeling of security
Integrity - questioning motives only undermines and invalidates
Acceptance - to be respected and accepted is the most basic hidden issue that drives all other issues
Howard Markman & Scott Stanley “Fighting for Your Marriage”
5 Responses to Marital Conflict
- Fight - Attack; Contest; Out manoeuvre. Always want to win; Finding fault; Keeping score; Being an attack dog
- Flight - Withdraw; Denial; Avoidance.
- Freeze - Become immobilized; Learned helplessness.
- Give Up –Submission; Minimise; Overlook.
- Face Up - Constructive problem-solving.
Conflict v’s Problems
· Problems = disputes or differences of opinions, perspectives, goals or values
· Conflict = our inner response to real or imaginary external threats that endanger our status, identity and self-esteem
“Conflict creates emotional discomfort and most people slip into defensive, blocked, self-critical or self-protective postures”.
The Two Components of Conflict
1. The Emotional Dimension
Emotional distress lies at the heart of conflict
Feelings of anger, defensiveness, fear, distrust, resentment, rejection quickly emerge
Too much hurt and negativity can become destructive and overwhelming
The need to acknowledge and deal with the hurt, pain, and anger
ANGER = “a strong feeling of displeasure excited by a real or supposed injury often accompanied by a desire to take revenge or to obtain satisfaction from the offending party.”
Anger is a natural, normal, emotion
Anger is designed to warn and protect us by energizing us for action
Anger, when not managed constructively, can be a very destructive in a marriage relationship
Anger, when managed constructively, can be a resource that helps the marriage improve over time
Anger is a secondary emotion to protect you from further hurt and pain
2.The Specific Issue
Conflicting needs, values, goals, practices, roles
Divided into 2 categories
• Solvable problems - able to be resolved
• Perpetual problems - 70% of marital conflict
NB: Couples who fail to resolve issues, get gridlocked and become entrenched in “vicious cycles” of conflict, and feel psychologically overwhelmed or flooded
A Model for Conflict Resolution
1. Deal with emotion first
Acknowledge and validate each other’s feelings
Actively listen with empathy don’t interrupt, don’t distance, don’t judge
Respect each other - don’t counterattack, blame, accuse, demean, insult
Calm yourself (“self-soothe”) Learn your triggers
2. Discuss the problem
• Make a “soft start-up” – speak in a slow and quiet voice
• Admit that there is a problem – no denial
• Define the problem. Don’t rush to find a “solution”
• Listen, understand & validate each other’s point of view
• Clearly and briefly state your views, needs, feelings
• Don’t monopolize the discussion
• Discuss one issue at a time – don’t divert attention
• Watch the tone of your voice - don’t be harsh, attack, or escalate, be congruent
• Remain open and flexible
• Stay connected
3. Solve the problem
Look at alternative solutions (brainstorm)
Generate options or alternate solutions?
a. Leave underwear on the floor
b. Wife picks up underwear
c. Husband picks up underwear
d. Fight over the issue
e. Nail underwear to the floor
f. Put underwear in the rubbish
g. Hide dirty underwear
h. Put underwear in the wash basket
4. Select the most appropriate solution and weigh up the possible consequences
5. Develop your action plan
6. Implement the plan
7. Evaluate the outcome, and the process used to get to resolution