In our last write up, we introduced the understanding of conflict in a relationship. While every marriage is unique to the individuals involved, there have been multiple research and expert views on some of the basic issues that can be the cause for conflict.
Here’s our attempt to highlight some of those areas of conflict. Please note that they are in no particular order.
- Money: This is a bit of a complex area in terms of understanding the underlying issues. More often than not, the difficulties around money are hardly about ‘money’ itself but actually what it means and represents to both the partners. It can be a representation of love, power, stability, and safety. And to successfully navigate through the issues arising from this, it is important for couples to work through their meaning of money and look at how it differs from that of their partner.
- Children: Parenting can be the cause of huge stress in a marriage. The disagreements are caused due to differences in parenting styles –
- How much to discipline?
- How to discipline?
- Division of labour around child duties?
- The structure-nurture battle
- The somewhat subtle competition to get kids’ approval
- Sex: This can potentially be a huge area of discord. The fact that there is a reluctance to discuss it aggravates it. Especially in our culture, it carries a social taboo and thereby a lot of couples are unhappy and yet hesitant to talk about their issues surrounding this with their partners. Frequency and quality can also create disharmony.
- Time commitments:
“You don’t have time for me at all”
“ I don’t seem to get any time to myself”
The concept of time and space can differ between individuals. While there is a need to spend quality time together, there is equally a need to maintain the individuality of space and boundaries in a relationship. If the need around this is very different for the two people involved, it can be a serious cause of friction in the relationship.
- Household responsibilities (Regular chores):
A friend of mine once commented in jest, ‘a husband not helping in daily chores can be a big problem. But a husband helping can be a bigger irritation.’
It is not only the seemingly even distribution of work that can potentially cause a conflict, but the evaluation of the process of discharging the responsibility as well as the desired outcome can also lead to fights.
This means that this area has essentially two parts to it.
- The so-called distribution of work
- The approval of the work done by the partner
Chore distribution must include what is ‘fair’ and the interest and strength of the two partners.
- Work and career: Working hours, career progress, and earnings – all of these have the potential to create conflict in a relationship especially in today’s modern working couples. The workplace stress and issues can unwittingly creep into their interaction at home thereby adding on to a potential crisis.
- Lifestyle: Sometimes when the generic outlook towards the basics of living is very different, it can become a huge pain point in the relationship. Culturally, India is very diverse and when some of these fundamentals clash, it can create a lot of stress. Here is an indicative list of some of the seemingly fundamental elements with the potential to create unrest:
- Food – Differences in taste buds, the fight over vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, the importance given to food in general can become very sensitive topics
- Social outlook towards leisure – Spending time outside vs. being at home
- A sense of style – How a partner presents him or herself and the clothes they wear can cause unpleasantness
- Friends – the nature of the friendships and the amount of time spent with them can create conflict
Some of the above might not be a direct cause of conflict but have the potential to create a feeling of ‘compromise’ and ‘adjustment’ thereby creating stress in the relationship. It is therefore important to be able to talk about these and listen to each other and owning up the decision to ‘compromise’ or ‘adjust’ because something is important to the partner.
- Extended Family: This is one of the most sensitive areas of conflict. In-laws, siblings, relatives can all add to the complexity of any relationship. Tread gently and carefully. It is important to separate the extended family behaviour and issues apart from that of the partner. Your partner is not responsible for the behaviour of everyone in their own family.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but read through and see which ones are relevant in your respective case. If you feel that we have missed out on some, which you think is important, we would love to hear from you.
Next week, we will be looking at the different approaches to resolving and managing conflict.