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Feature Article


Managing conflict in marriage

Adapted by Nina Chen, Ph.D., Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension


There is no perfect marriage. Even happy, healthy marriages involve some conflict from time to time. Conflict is a normal part of sharing life with someone else. The key is to know how to deal with disagreement and conflict in a constructive way. These steps can help:


  • Set a specific time to work on the problem. It is very important to discuss problems when both spouses can mentally and emotionally prepare. Writing down the problem before discussion can help to focus on specific issues.
  • Listen to the other person’s point of view. Listen to each other and allow both sides to explain and express feelings without interruption. Avoid making judgments or trying to be a mind reader. Showing respect for each other’s point of view makes it clear that both of you are working together to resolve the problem rather than just trying to “win” the argument. Clear, direct communication can help you understand each other better.
  • Identify solutions. Brainstorm solutions to the problem together and don’t criticize the other person’s input. Exploring as many solutions as possible helps to find a solution that both will accept. This process requires compromise and negotiation.
  • Decide on a mutually acceptable solution. After listing the proposed solutions, evaluate each one and choose one that may solve the problem. When evaluating the solutions, discuss the possible implementation and outcomes. Making a list of pros and cons for each solution can help. If both spouses still disagree, discuss the reasons and explore options until both agree to try one solution. Open communication and mutual sharing and respect can help prevent feelings of rejection and can promote growth.


After implementing the solution, discuss whether the problem is being solved. If not, continue discussing it and making adjustments until you find an option that will work. Try to focus on options that both spouses can help with so both of you are contributing to the solution. It’s also important to learn to accept that some things cannot change. When spouses go through this process together, it shows that they value one another and are committed to making the marriage work.


For more information, refer to the MU Extension publication Creating a Strong and Satisfying Marriage.


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Last Updated 07/22/2014