Appeasement: Methods of Dealing with Conflict

The manner in which couples handle the inevitable conflict that arises in marriage is one of the primary indicators of the long-term health of the relationship.There are five typical ways that people handle conflict in their marriage.  [See previous article.]  One way that some individuals choose is appeasement. When appeasement occurs, one spouse regularly yields his/her own feelings, beliefs or ideas in order to pacify or please the other. To some, this seems like a noble position to assume. After all, keeping peace and harmony in the relationship is important. But, is “giving in to get along” an effective method for dealing with conflict?

The simple answer to this question is “no”. Appeasement is not an effective strategy in marriage or in other areas of life. It is certainly good and gracious to be accommodating and obliging to the preferences of your spouse in various circumstances. However, appeasement is not a productive manner in which to approach conflict. In healthy relationships both spouses learn to give and take. When one spouse always gives and the other always takes major problems are unavoidable.

Yielding to your spouse may appear to achieve the peace that is sought, but this peace is temporal and superficial. In reality, appeasement generally sets in motion an inner struggle that will eventually harm both spouses and the relationship itself. This style of dealing with conflict is fraught with difficulties. Here are some of the reasons why…

(1) Appeasement can lead to a controlling relationship. Constant yielding to one’s spouse will empower him/her to assume a position of dominance in the relationship. This creates an imbalance that will ultimately harms both individuals.

(2) Respect is diminished or destroyed. Both the appeasing spouse and the empowered spouse lose respect for one another for different reasons. Positive regard and mutual acceptance is eroded because the opinion of each spouse is lowered in the mind of the other.

(3) The appeasing spouse lives with unmet needs. He/she represses heartfelt feelings at the expense of legitimate needs. Unfulfilled needs have a tendency to re-emerge and manifest themselves in other ways – both open and hidden. The presentation can vary widely, but some common effects are depression, anger, bitterness, resentment, regret, and so forth.

(4) Appeasement does not resolve conflict.  It merely buries it for the time being. Unresolved conflicts will eventually arise from their shallow graves and come back to haunt the relationship by stifling growth and inhibiting marital satisfaction.

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