Q&A: Experiencing marital conflict


My spouse and I sometimes experience significant marital conflict. When that happens I usually shut down, and it’s really hurting our marriage. I’m a visual person – can you give me a mental picture that I can retrieve in times of stress to help me engage in a healthy way?

Answer: Marriage can challenge the strongest of couples. We really like this illustration: when serious conflict damages your relationship, do you dig a moat or build a bridge?

Digging a moat is a common reaction when your marriage is suffering. It’s like an emotional trench around your heart so deep and wide that your spouse can never cross it. When you’re buried in heartache, that’s an understandable response. But in the long run, it’ll keep you stuck in pain.

To break free, build a bridge to your spouse by finding ways to connect with each other. You don’t have to let heartache have the final say over your life and marriage. Rebuild what’s been broken. That’s not easy to do, but few things worth having are.

The key is all in how you go about it. Your relationship won’t magically fix itself overnight. Healing can come, but it happens one date night, one conversation, and one kiss at a time. Disconnecting from one another probably took some time, and so will reconnecting.

You also have to prioritise your relationship. Put the children to bed early one night, so you and your spouse can have some time together. Hire a babysitter or meet for lunch. It may seem like ordinary moments like these won’t get you anywhere. But they’re exactly the kind of small steps that can slowly bring your relationship back together.

If conflict has damaged your marriage, remember: Don’t dig a moat. Build a bridge.

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