Yes. Healthy conflict. It is a real thing. And it is really accessible to all marriages.
When working with couples, one of the things I really enjoy doing is helping them learn how to have healthy conflict. Using it to bring them closer together rather than farther apart.
And when we start doing this work, couples will often ask me, “What does healthy conflict even look like?”
This is a fantastic question! One we should all be asking. And yet, more often than not, people don’t have an answer, or have never considered the question.
Let me start by saying there is no one way to have healthy conflict.
What you will need to consider are three things:
1. What are the strengths of you and your spouse in conflict?
2. What are the weaknesses of you and your spouse in conflict?
3. How can you both utilize your strengths to overcome your weaknesses?
The key value you need to incorporate when responding to the third consideration above is COOPERATION.
Yes, you can have conflict and cooperate together. In fact, that is the most important factor when having healthy conflict! You both need to be willing to cooperate.
Now, cooperation does not mean one person must give in to the other. Far from it. Cooperation is when you both are working towards the same goal. It is when you both know the purpose you have for your marriage, and work towards it together through your conflict.
To make cooperation effective, you both need to change the mindset of conflict being a “me vs. you” mindset to a “you AND me vs. the problem”.
The problem is washing the dishes at the end of the day. The problem is NOT YOUR SPOUSE.
Let me say that again.
The problem is the problem. YOUR SPOUSE IS NOT THE PROBLEM.
That is what healthy conflict looks like. It looks like two people who join together, using their strengths, overcoming their weaknesses, and defeating the problem together.
I actually recorded a podcast with Tony Traback at Wellspring Church in Pacific Grove where we talked about cooperation and conflict. Have a listen to Episode 1 on their podcast for a few more tips!
You’ve got this. Your spouse has got this. You can do this together. You just gotta start there, together. Just like you started dating, together. And you got married, together.
Stick together and you will conquer the problem!
Take care, friends!
Alisha Sweyd, LMFT
Episode 1: Marriage Talks with Wellspring Church in Pacific Grove