Is a Conflict Free Marriage Possible?

The key to creating an ongoing harmonious relationship with a life-partner has intrigued ordinary individuals and researchers alike. Many couples wonder whether it is even possible to modify their innately programmed nature to accommodate their partner’s needs and achieve greater harmony in their relationship.

Even those who presume that a conflict-free long-term relationship is unachievable are interested in reducing conflict and increasing harmony in their unions.

Ch. Mahmood Anwar and associates studied three personality characteristics’ impact on relationship conflict: Extroverts, “people who are sociable, gregarious, assertive, energetic, talkative, enthusiastic and ambitious, with high desire of wealth, status, recognition and power,” Conscientious Individuals who are “responsible, dependable, persistent, organized, disciplined, methodical, diligent, risk averse, achievement oriented and purposeful” and persons with Neuroticism, “A personality dimension that typifies people as calm, depressed, insecure, emotionally unstable, mistrusting, anxious and hedonistic.” The researchers found that Conscientiousness is negatively related to interpersonal conflict, Neuroticism is positively related to interpersonal conflict and Extroversion was positively related to conflict, which they admit had been contradicted by other research findings.

In “Perceived emotional intelligence and conflict resolution styles among information technology professionals” Researcher Anand S. Godse found that “overall emotional intelligence of understanding emotions was significantly correlated with integrating style of conflict resolution.”

Researchers Diane S. Berry and Julie K. Willingham reported in “Affective Traits, Responses to Conflict, and Satisfaction in Romantic Relationships” that “Participants who were high on Positive Affect were more likely to be in a relationship and Negative Affect emerged as a predictor of the amount of conflict that characterized people’s past romantic relationships.” They also found that “high Positive Affect individuals were reluctant to engage in destructive responses and routinely engaged in constructive responses during conflict with their partners.”

In love relationships, it is not the personality traits that create conflict between mates but rather the discounting words or conduct that is hurtful, uncaring, inconsiderate, shaming or unloving. A conflict arises when one’s feelings, wishes or needs appear to be disregarded, one’s essence discounted or one’s wishes or preferences overlooked. Every partner deserves to be highly regarded and kindly treated by his/her beloved even when the pair’s needs do not match each other’s.

In couple therapy, a common complaint of spouses is that their partner behaves in an uncaring, disrespectful or unkind way. The conflict is not about one partner carrying more than his/her fair share of the responsibility, or about the mate’s disagreeable personality traits, but predominantly about the absence of desired appreciation, validation and respect one craves to receive.

When pairs provide each other Consideration, co-Operation, Participation and Enthusiastic support they both COPE well and their conflicts are reduced to a negligible level as their marital satisfaction and relationship bliss heightens.

Conflict reduction tools:

  • Forego the notion that relationship conflicts are inevitable.
  • Visualize yourself in your partner’s shoes when you hear his/her complaint.
  • Abstain from character demeaning accusations.
  • Use your positive affect to regularly affirm your mate as you practice the COPE skills.








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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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