Couples argue about everything from children and housework to money and sex—even the best marriage counselors and love guru’s have conflict about these same things in their own relationships. Conflict-free relationships do not exist, so it’s no cause for alarm if you and your mate have arguments. The danger, however, is when those arguments become destructive.
Arguing too much or failing to resolve problems in a relationship can result in psychological and physical health risks that take years off of life expectancy. In fact, studies by Dana Crowley Jack, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Western Washington University, conclude that women in particular can suffer from health issues like cardiovascular or irritable bowel disease and even suicide when they don’t handle relational conflict appropriately. Recognition of a few telltale signs might save more than your relationship, it could save your life.
Take account of things like your sleeping pattern, appetite and emotional well-being. Your body’s trying to tell you something when you experience insomnia or excessive sleeping, decreased or increased appetite, and feelings of sadness or unhappiness. When there’s too much conflict (or lack of appropriate conflict resolution) on top of those things, that something could be depression. A lot of arguing can drain a person and a relationship, resulting in feelings of hopelessness and frustration which typically precedes depression.
Pay attention to your thought-life because thoughts can turn into actions that you regret. For example, if you think about someone from your past or an office friend who you feel would treat you better every time you and your spouse have a conflict, those general thoughts can turn into more specific ones where you end up picturing yourself with that person more intimately. Most times, what you constantly think about doing, you end up doing.
Fulfilling thoughts of having an affair as a way to cope with your relationship problems can definitely destroy it, in turn causing you to feel grave regret. You can always learn from any mistake, but a Harvard Medical School publication says that, “If one fails to learn from experiences of regret, the outcome may be misery, self-destructive behavior, or a fatal act.”
Check your behavioral response. Underneath acting out excessively or erratically might lay unresolved conflict between you and your mate. A Focus on the Family resource says that, “Where there is destructive conflict, you will often find cruelty, neglect, deception, control, indifference and even abuse.”
Pointers & Cautions
• If you recognize that conflict is destroying you and your relationship, do something about it. Otherwise, you could suffer the consequences relationally, emotionally, physically and mentally. See the reference and resource sections for information about resolving conflict appropriately.
• Realize that even when you do learn how to resolve conflict the right way, you’ll still have conflict. However, you should have less episodes or the conflicts should be less disastrous. Seek counseling with a trained professional that fits your needs if that’s the case.
• Find out what your love language is as well as the love language of your mate. Sometimes conflicts repetitively cycle because we don’t tend to our mate in a way that fits the way they love. See the love language assessment tool under the resources at the bottom of the page for more information about love languages.
Understanding Women’s Anger: A Description of Relational Patterns by Dana Crowley Jack
The Mayo Clinic: Depression Symptoms
Harvard Health Publications: The Value of Regret
Focus on the Family: Destructive Conflict (Recognize It. Stop It.)
Editor-In-ChiefZara Hairston is a modern-day renaissance woman who uniquely draws people to the Cross of Christ through teaching, writing and speaking. She holds a bachelor of arts in Journalism from Temple University, and a master of arts in Christian Counseling from Jacksonville Theological Seminary—where she was also ordained. Hairston's organizations include Love-Life, Inc., YourHeartShape, Moms In Christ, BComingMe, Sister Keepers and Arrow Spring Academy. Currently, she resides in the Atlanta area with her husband Anton "Eshon Burgundy" Hairston and their three children.