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The second session of the Pathways in Marriage program was hosted by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) on August 10th. Presenters Douglas and Yvette explored the topic ‘Who is in Control?’

To begin, Douglas acknowledged that conflict is present in all relationships and newly weds will encounter challenges. He explained, “Each spouse will ask this question [Who is in control?], as the different situations continue to arise.” However, one of the main challenges that newly weds would have to work on is overcoming “the tendency to jockey for control.” He described the desire to control conflict as a “natural human instinct.” He shared that conflict within marriages appear in the form of a battle or a struggle between interests or ideas that oppose or clash and, “New couples will prefer to suppress conflicts for fear of the damage it may cause to the marriage.”

After looking at a movie clip which highlighted the types of conflict that young couples will face in their marriages, Yvette gave some realistic examples. “The problems that you will discover are fragile egos; fragile dreams and expectations will be part of what you will be discovering. Your ability to handle conflict will be stifled by these.” Disillusionment and insecurity move in when these fragile dreams have not been materialized. “Both parties are equally affected simply because you came with expectations and you came with unresolved issues and these will naturally transfer into your marriage.”

Douglas brought up the need for attitudes to be adjusted. “Young couples not yet fully comfortable with each other feel compelled to walk on egg shells when dealing with each other, for fear of creating friction in their fragile relationship.” Unfortunately, young couples tend to believe that openness leads to fighting but he emphasized, “the greater the openness, the greater the potential for increased intimacy.” If conflict is not approached in the right manner, it leads to alienation and pain. Therefore, it’s important that married couples “learn to argue without losing each other.”

Yvette described conflict as a symptom. “It is the result of unresolved issues. It is the issues that will create separation and not the conflict.” She compared the issue to a virus which is an invisible agent that is present, causing different symptoms to appear and be visible to the newly weds. “If the symptom is a mild, temporary one; effective treatment maybe all that is required but if the symptoms create prolonged conflict, and normal treatment does not resolve the situation then you need to find the source of the issue.” Yvette highlighted that conflict is a normal part of life but it’s important that they get to the root of the issue.

Douglas advised the newly weds on ways they can attempt to resolve marital conflict. They were encouraged to approach each other in a kind manner, showing concern. “Establish an atmosphere of mutual vulnerability and transparency.” Work on becoming effectives listeners. Always speak truthfully from a position of love. “Be willing to forgive.”

Yvette also took the opportunity to share other ways that she and Douglas have used to handle conflict. “Compromise – it involves giving in, mutual giving in, and not one-sided giving in. Agree to disagree – involves acceptance, conditional for the most part because it is a transition to giving in without conditions because it is not easy to give in without conditions.”

Douglas encouraged the young couples to truly know themselves. “Be aware and understand what is going on inside of you. Own up to your feelings. Take time and think. Think about what your spouse’s position really is and look at options and think of what you’re going to say and stick to the basics. Stick to the issues at hand. Keep out the issues from the past. Teach yourself out of it. Argue over issues. Become creative. Diffuse the situation.”

By: Ottrisha Carter