Top 5 Reasons for Marital Conflict

by Cameron Schaefer on January 28, 2008

stormAfter publishing my last post dealing with marriage, Say What You Need, I received some feedback indicating that more content in this area would be appreciated. Since I want this blog to be incredibly useful to my readers I started to look at my marriage and discern what has made it so successful thus far. As I indicated in my last marriage post, a lot of credit must go to Aaron Stern, pastor of theMill in Colorado Springs, CO, who led us through our pre-marital counseling and put tools in our hands to build a marriage that will last.

If you are married there is one thing that is certain: there will be conflict. It is impossible to live with someone day after day, for years on end without having some type of conflict. One of the keys to marital success is adopting a view that conflict is good! What?! Yes, conflict is good! Conflict always presents an opportunity for couples to work through issues and come out stronger on the other end. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating you start picking fights with your spouse for fun, but taking the fear out of conflict goes a long way in helping couples confront their issues.

Some of you may be reading this getting ready to bounce because you are not married and don’t feel this will apply to you…wait…if you are ever even thinking about getting married some day, this information will be useful for you as you begin surveying the land for potential mates.

The following is a list of the top five reasons for marital conflict:

1) a failure of communication

2) financial difficulties

3) sexual difficulties

4) problems with in-laws

5) disagreements over child rearing

“All conflicts are the result of unrealistic, uncommunicated or unmet expectations,” explains Aaron Stern. If you are already married, these should highlight areas to openly discuss often with your spouse. What are your expectations in each of these areas? If you disagree, how do you intend to work things out?

If you are unmarried, look at these as things to discuss with your boyfriend/girlfriend or fiancee before starting marriage in order to work out some ground rules before jumping in without clear expectations. Don’t wait until you get married and then realize that while you had always wanted 10 children your spouse doesn’t want any. Discussing your expectations clearly, early and often in each of these areas will go a long way to strengthen your marriage.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine White January 28, 2008 at 5:12 pm

I completely agree with your five reasons for marital conflict. And I think it’s important that people realize that a failure of communication is #1. But I don’t know if married couples always realize there is a failure of communication. Growing up in different homes you tend to see how your parents communicate as a couple. You then learn that’s what is expected of you. It will later come as a shock that what you learned could very well be wrong in your spouse’s eyes. It ties in so well with Say What You Need!! Because your spouse may be thinking they’re doing the pleasing thing by communicating well in their minds, but not by your definition at all. I think even friends of opposite sex tend to experience this. Many men and women think so differently about communication. It’s important to learn that the other person expects. All ties up exactly how you said Camerson….Say what you need!

Brian Reese January 28, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Fantastic post. As someone who is about to be married, these are important concepts to keep in mind.

Marriage counseling classes highlight all five of these areas as the most crucial to marital success.

Akshay Kapur January 28, 2008 at 7:34 pm

I love it. You’re right on!

Gotta say though that #1 can and most often is responsible for all the others. Once you have that down, everything becomes much easier.

the constant skeptic January 30, 2008 at 5:58 pm

great post… thanks

Ben February 7, 2008 at 8:20 pm

I have the following question. When does conflict become an emotional armageddon?

My mother and stepfather conflicted about the five reasons you listed, and as a teenager night after night, over several years, hearing profanity laden screaming matches that started in the early evening and lasted to the early hours of the morning biases me towards not having the viewpoint that “conflict is good.”

By all means married couples should have regular thoughtful discussions about the issues raised in your list. But conflict always equals win-lose for those involved, not win-win.

I have just discovered your blog via the 28th Carnival of Personal Development and this is the first entry that I have read. I still aim to read some of your other posts with an open mind. This particular post steamed me up some.


Gregsl March 22, 2008 at 7:27 pm

favorited this one, brother

Brad Spencer July 30, 2008 at 8:44 am

I definitely see communication ringing through many problem marriages.

I have been seeing a woman for about 14 months or so and I’ve noticed we fight when we haven’t been talking enough. I feel like this really gets to the core of so many issues in life and especially relationships.

Problems with in-laws definitely come from lack of communication. People judge each other too harshly and thus conflict arises. Because communication wasn’t there (telling it like it is…not as it appears) erroneous judgments were made…thus leading to problems

So, communicate well and most of the time your problems will be cured :)

Cheers and Great Post!

Brad Spencer

james January 30, 2009 at 3:30 am

communication is the key….we learn from our expirences and couples should learn to respect that difference or atleast undersatnd and improve.

Archana Nene December 31, 2009 at 8:24 am

Yes you are absolutely right!! Communication is the key…. I would also say an understanding and respect among each other and wanting to make it work for you are key (Communication) holders…. :) This has been working for me for last 15 years and having fantastic marriage!!

sonal verma April 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

my topic is stress ,depression and marital conflect middle age group

Mehroos Fatima May 6, 2010 at 5:26 am

Yeah absolutely right but apart fom this there are so many other factors which effects marital life

ojetayo mayowa ayodeji March 11, 2011 at 4:31 am

i really enjoy all you write ups

josephine ucc ghana March 26, 2012 at 6:44 am

I agree with your top five,such subjects should be done in an informal way such us during an intimate conversation with your partner without he or she knowing that you have them on your mind.and it will just be perfect if you both agree to each others desires.

Alan Rennie September 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Well to be honest I find conflict very unproductive, I think the basis of a good marrage is respect and trust. I have been married for 38 years and my wife is the best person I know. I respect her judgment way more than my own she is the sencible one. We have had the odd tiff in this time but nothing that would be described as conflict. We both knew what the problem was it was just frustratoin that came to a head. My wife is not only a wife but also my lover the mother of my children and most of all my best friend. If you don’t describe your partner like this you are heading for disaster.

Topy October 17, 2012 at 8:31 am

What about a partner is so occupied with his or her profession without much time for partner in love

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