The answer is: Yes.
Conflict is not inherently a sign that a relationship is flawed, or doomed, or not-meant-to-be. It is, however, a place in which the relationship can be strengthened, or harmed. Conflict will happen in marriage…not may happen…will happen. And if it isn’t, then likely one of you is not being honest with yourself.
I (Susan) grew up in a house with no obvious conflict. Later in life, my parents shared that they had made a pact early on that they would never fight. That resulted in two people who did not fight on the outside, rather shoved all their real feelings deep inside. It resulted in kids who had no idea how to navigate difference of opinions, hear another perspective and ultimately negotiate a solution. Instead, my sister and I headed into adulthood handicapped of these skills and with a solid belief that conflict meant death. Death of the relationship. You can read a little about how it impacted me here: They Didn’t Ever Fight
Back to the inevitability of conflict: it isn’t whether you disagree, but how you disagree that determines if conflict is a help or a harm to your marriage. Here are the measures that we use to check our conflict for its healthy/harm impact on our us:
- Have we each been heard, really heard? Did my partner really understand what I was trying to say, and do I know that?
- Do I know my viewpoint has value, even if my partner disagrees? Does he/she appreciate my perspective?
- Have we confirmed our understanding of how we each feel in this conflict? Do I feel validated? Even if we haven’t come to a solution?
- Do we both have an understanding of the others perspective? Even if I don’t agree, can I empathize with my partner?
- Am I safe? Is he safe? In and during and after the conflict, are we both safe to share our viewpoints, opinions and feelings without retribution, sarcasm or mocking?
This wasn’t the story of our conflicts and disagreements for the first 27 years of our marriage. But it is now. And it can be for you, too.