When we were dating we had a fight every now and then, but that pales in comparison to what it’s been like since we’ve been married. I know some couples who say they never fight and that makes me all the more nervous about my marriage. Does having conflicts mean that we will get a divorce?
Like you, we have heard some mature couples, married for decades, who say that in all their years of marriage they have never had one single fight. Pretty impressive, huh? But in all honesty, we often wonder about these couples. They seem so proud, like not having conflict is the goal of marriage. Actually, it makes us wonder how deep their conversations ever get if they never lead to conflict. These couples must surely walk on egg shells from time to time.
You see, the goal of marriage is not to avoid conflict. Not by far. Conflict — if handled correctly — can help build a stronger marriage. We have said it at least a hundred times: Conflict is the price smart couples pay for a deepening sense of intimacy. Without conflict it is difficult to peel away the superficial layers of a relationship and discover who we really are. When Ruth Graham was asked if she and her famous husband Billy ever fight, she said, “I hope so. Otherwise we would have no differences, and life would be pretty boring.”
Consider the reasons for marital spats. First of all, people are not perfect and neither is the world we live in. And while it makes logical sense that there are no perfect marriages, many of us still expect our marriage to be different. This expectation alone is enough to set off countless conflicts. Another factor that adds fuel to the fire of marital fights is the human tendency to resist compromise. Every day couples run up against desires, big and small, that collide with each other. For example, a husband wants to work overtime to acquire enough money to make a down payment on a house while the wife would rather sacrifice the savings and spend more time together at home. There is no real right or wrong side in this scenario. Both partners have a good point. But a compromise is needed if they are ever going to resolve it. Yet for most people, compromise is difficult and conflict is thus inevitable.
We could go on listing reasons for turbulence in marriage. But no matter how deeply a man and woman love each other, they will encounter conflict. It is a natural component of every healthy marriage. So don’t bury your differences. Instead, view them as a potential source for cultivating a deeper sense of intimacy. Of course, to do this, you must learn to fight fair. And this is covered in the next question.