The Very Important Difference Between Conflict and Fighting

Why fighting is destructive but conflict is encouraged

I’ve shared with you in past blog posts that my husband, Mike, and I are very, very different. Early in our marriage, these differences created a lot of tensions. There were days when I wondered if we could make it with such divergent views on everything from money to movies.

Mike and I are still very different. While that continues to create disagreement, we rarely fight any more. We discovered a secret that has made our marriage immeasurably more enjoyable. Are you ready?

You can have conflict without fighting.

Because we typically use the two words interchangeably, most couples don’t know the difference between a conflict and a fight. Conflict in marriage is absolutely inevitable. Because you are two separate people with your own thoughts, desires, and beliefs, you will have conflict. Fighting, however, is optional.

A famous marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, discovered that one of the primary indications of whether or not a couple would stay together was how they handled conflict. Please note: the difference wasn’t how much conflict the couple had, but how they handled it. You and your husband may disagree about many things, but if you have the skills to resolve conflict without fighting, you can have a harmonious marriage.

When you think of the word fight, you probably imagine a couple yelling and screaming at each other. However, you and your husband can “fight” without ever raising your voices. A couple can also be fighting in their marriage when they become verbally aggressive, contemptuous, or withholding in marriage. I used to pride myself in not losing my temper like my Irish husband did. Then I realized that I was doing just as much damage with quiet sarcasm, an arrogant attitude, or giving him the cold shoulder for days.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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May 25

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