Uncovering Deeper Issues of Marital Conflict

There are many causes of conflict in a typical marriage. Of course, it is perfectly normal for disagreements and arguments to take place between two mates. But when quarrels get particularly nasty, become prolonged, or continually reoccur it may be a sign that the source of the tension is something other than the supposed reason for the disputes. It could be that there are deeper more fundamental issues lurking below the surface that are never really addressed – and sometimes aren't even known.

Regardless of the nature of the conflict, the first task is to determine the severity of the situation. Some arguments are nothing more than a disagreement about a particular incident. In such cases, once the incident – and accompanying dispute – has run its course things return to normal. Other clashes are symptomatic of larger issues. These are thematic problems that come up time after time. They are linked together and usually triggered by related incidents. Finally, there are some hidden issues for which the real cause of the problem never seems to surface or be addressed.  These are more abstract and emotional in nature.

These deeper issues come in many varieties. Some disputes about money are really about deeper issues of control or power. Some arguments about household chores are really about deeper issues of respect or regard. Some arguments about canceling plans are really about deeper issues of caring or acceptance. These are just a few examples.

Sometimes one or both spouses are not fully aware of the more abstract dynamics that are underlying the conflict in their relationship. They may instinctively feel that something is wrong but not be able to fully conceptualize it or explain it. Other times one or both partners may have a greater degree of awareness of the core problem, but may not bring it to the surface to discuss it openly.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon. One may not feel emotionally safe enough in the relationship to bring up such matters. One may have had a bad experience in a previous relationship that he/she does not want to repeat. One may simply not know how to appropriately deal with the root cause of an issue. So, what often happens is that partners just keep bickering or complaining about the various peripheral symptoms instead of addressing the real problem.
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