avoiding conflict

3 Bad Ways We Avoid Conflict in Marriage

My wife and I had a big argument on day two of our honeymoon—all because I wouldn’t dance with her. She innocently wanted to dance with me at the beach town we were visiting. It was mid-morning with sunny skies and guitars strumming beautifully. But my wife didn’t realize she married an introverted jerk who cared more about what others thought than what she did. There I was, feeling uncomfortable about dancing, and instead of making my new bride happy, I upset her. This was our first conflict as a married couple.

All marriages have conflict. Handled properly, conflict is healthy and can make you closer. But avoiding conflict can create seeds of bitterness, make you grow apart, and foster passivity. Walls start to form. Thank goodness, my wife didn’t avoid conflict on our honeymoon. Thanks to her, we started our marriage on a solid foundation. How you handle conflict matters. Here are 3 bad ways we avoid conflict in marriage.

1. Stay silent.

Many husbands stay quiet with the intention of preserving peace. I know guys who’ve been married for years but still don’t speak up. They keep their opinions to themselves. Don’t be the doormat husband who stays married by being walked over.

If you avoid conflict by staying quiet, you’re asking for misunderstanding and even bitterness toward your spouse. Instead of staying silent, initiate conversation. If you’ve been silent for a long time, this may require you to start with an apology and pointing out your desire to strengthen your marriage. If this is you, create a plan to talk with your wife about what you’re being silent about. Your wife deserves to hear what you think.

2. Stay separate.

Many married couples spend their days separated. If you’re together only because you keep yourselves away from each other, that’s not a marriage. Call me crazy, but marriage is supposed to be a close friendship rather than like being roommates. The old cliché about the husband sleeping on the sofa needs to be thrown out with tomorrow’s garbage.

Instead of staying separate with the idea that you’re somehow saving the marriage, make it your responsibility to pursue your wife. If you’ve been living separate lives for a while, work to be her friend again. You can communicate care for your wife, even when you argue. Your arguments should be about things that improve your marriage, not arguments for argument’s sake. Learn how to handle conflict so you don’t create a wedge in your relationship. Being separate should be your sign to start addressing your conflicts head-on. The goal shouldn’t be to live separately and keep up appearances but to face the conflicts and come through the other side even more connected.

3. Hide stuff.

When avoiding conflict, maybe your go-to method is to change the subject or hide details. But when you hide stuff from your wife, you’re not just avoiding conflict. You’re killing your relationship. Concealing anything only breeds more hiding. What you conceal will consume your marriage.

Instead of hiding, confess. Is it a financial decision you’ve made? Is it a friendship with a coworker that’s gone too far? Come clean. I have a friend who confided in me about an affair he had hidden from his wife for years. The affair started with sharing details about his family over a one-on-one lunch. Instead of coming clean early on, my friend chose a thousand small things to hide from his wife. If you find yourself hiding anything, even the smallest conversation, then you are heading down the wrong path in your marriage. It’s not enough to simply stop hiding things to avoid conflict. You must be honest about what you have done and commit to being honest in the future.

Earn some points: Share this iMOM article with your wife and discuss it: 15 Ways to Protect Your Marriage.

Sound off: What are some other bad ways we avoid conflict in marriage?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How does conflict make you feel?”