Courtship Marriage and the Family
Power and Conflict in Marriage
People encouter enormous stress over their lifetimes as they attempt to
families and live their lives. The text mentions stress that comes
from within the family, between husband and wife or between parents and
But there are forces outside the family that work to break it apart.
Unfortunately, when marriages fail, the family members often blame
themselves. Think about this table:
Stressful events can occur inside
the family, due either to normal
living, or because of abnormal conditions.
They can also come from outside the family, in the course of normal
world conditions, or because of abnormal ones.
often the symptoms of Abnormal stress are the same as Normal
depending on the courage and fortitude of family members. Similarly,
causes of stress can cause damage to the family even though they are
fault of no one in the family.
Also, some families seem to do well when under severe abnormal
while others can't seem to withstand the slightest snag in their
While being socialized, some people experience more of life, and
have more experience to draw on in times of crisis. Others are
more from life's experiences, and have less to use when faced with
The moral of the story is this:
The Issue of Power in Marriage: Power is the ability to get
person to think, feel, or do something they would not have ordinarily
spontaneously. If one possesses the means to affect another, one has
vis-a-vis that person. If one uses one's power, it is called influence.
If one's influence is successful, it is called control. Power can lead to
Influence can lead to ControlEach
person in a relationship has some power. It might be skewed to
one person or the other. To unfairly use one's power constitutes an
in a marriage. Marriage
can involve conflict and a struggle for power within the relationship.
- Never think you are so smart that you have nothing to learn from
and from life.
- Keep your eyes open and be slow to comment on what's happening
- Listen to people who are older than you when they offer advice.
have to take their advice, but they might say something that you can
- Conflict theorists regard issues of power
and conflict as central to all human interaction.
- Blood and Wolfe found four different
patterns of power in marriages: wife-dominant, husband dominant;
syncratic. Their methodology has been criticized and criticism has also
the point of view that power involves more than simply who makes the
on specific issues.
- In fact, we need power - to have power is
to have some sense of control over our lives. Symbolic interactionists
emphasize that what is most important involves whether people define
situation as one in which they have some power. The use of power is
in an intimate relationship.
- There are different sources of power. Whoever
has the most resources will have the most power. One important resource
money. There are other important nonmaterial resources: education,
support, budgeting skills, the ability to organize and maintain an
home, and parenting skills.
- Raven, Centers, and Rodrigues have
identified six different kinds of power that people can exert in a
coercive, reward, legitimate, expert, referent, and informational.
It is one thing, as the text
suggests, to get one's spouse to perform some specific behavior or
service. It is quite another to get one's spouse to engage in behavior
are against their moral or ethical code. In order to maintain the
of power in a marriage relationship, the partners must constantly work
towards equality in the marriage.
may at times be looked upon as a power
struggle. Reactance theory states that when someone
tries to force us to engage in a behavior, even though the behavior is
consistent with our attitudes, we are likely to resist and even change
attitudes. There are various ways that spouses can
attempt to either exert or avoid power when communicating with each
a conversation can be either symmetrical or complementary. There are
types of symmetrical discussions: competitive, neutralized, and
complementary interaction, the two spouses indicate agreement that one
dominant and the other is submissive.
of conflict is not necessarily the sign of a good marriage.
Areas of Conflict - conflict is a
direct result of power
- Healthy marriages
have some degree of conflict. Perhaps the most powerful predictor of
couple will break up or stay together is the way they handle their
- Conflict can have both positive and
negative consequences for a marriage. But conflict need not have
consequences. Well-managed conflict also has a number of other positive
functions: conflict brings issues out into the open; conflict helps
issues; conflict can promote growth; small conflicts help to defuse
serious conflict; and conflict can create and maintain an equitable
- If a marriage is generally satisfying, the
amount of conflict tends to diminish over time. There are countless
are the subject of marital conflict, including decisions; attention and
rewards; division and fulfillment of responsibility; and sloppy,
careless behavior. People fight about everything and anything.
A. Money - the number 1 area of conflict for people in their first
marriage (Remarried people fight about their children more). Fighting
money can be resolved by:
To know what people fight about is
necessarily to know why they fight. There are social, interpersonal,
personal sources of tension.
B. Work - the 2nd biggest trouble maker is argument over time spent at
work - particularly husbands who work too much! Other areas under work
- Keeping track of debts and payments
- Careful checkbook management
- Keeping spending patterns of each person under control.
- Being in agreement about strategies for money management
- Making spending decisions together
C. Sex - 3rd in frequency of disagreement is the general area of sex -
the frequency, the quality, and sometimes infidelity.
- Should wife work outside the home?
- Balancing housework and chores with work outside - who cleans
- Child care and nurturing of children - equal child care
- Relationship maintenance and romance - Time for the couple or
be no couple!
Destructive Consequences of Conflict - If left unresolved,
can fester into emotional wounds that are hard to heal. The best
is to never allow conflict to continue for very long.
- Issues about money are a common
battleground in marriages. Another social factor is the illusions that
in our society, including the notion that a marriage can be
- Conflict also arises from tensions within
the relationship and within the individual spouses, including the
areas: power and control, nurturance, intimacy and privacy, trust,
and differences in style.
A. Frustration = the emotion that is experienced when an important
need is being blocked or when an important satisfaction is being
Psychological Games - an interaction in which each person
in a conflict attacks the other - attempting to score a "win" in stead
of attacking the underlying conflict. Psychological games are covert
(hidden) and dishonest.
B. Rejection and Betrayal - resulting in
- Rejection follows conflict involving a basic needs going unmet
- Emotional involvement with another person usually involves
defenses we normally keep in place - Therefore: rejection by an
we have come to trust and upon whom we rely is a very basic form of
- Lowered Self-Esteem = We chip away at each other in some sort
Game we play. This devastates the relationship.
- Displacement - when our feelings are hurt and we suffer loss of
we begin (unknowingly y perhaps) to displace our feelings from the real
cause of the deprivation (who we are angry with and why) to a more
or safer disagreement. Sexual conflicts, for example are often
to safer topics of discussion
Attack and Defense (styles of conflict)
are different styles of conflict. Competition involves a high concern
oneself and a low concern for the other. Avoidance involves little
your own interests or for the interests of the other. Accommodation is
opposite of competition; it is a neglect of one’s own interests in
pursue the interests of the other. Compromise involves some concern
one’s own interests and the interests of the other. Collaboration is
opposite of avoidance; it is a high degree of concern both for one’s
interests and for the interests of the partner.
A. Authoritarian Resolution - "I win, you lose!"
Constructive Conflict Resolution - There
are certain principles of good fighting.
B. Permissive Acceptance - always giving in
C. Passive Aggression - "You go on, I'll just sit here - ALONE!" -
"Well, if you really want me to come with you..."
E. Honest Resolution - the only strategy that has lasting positive
is this one.
- Couples who have a strong relationship
maintain their perspective and save their energies for the issues that
- There are tensions in life that can lead to
marital conflict, and people need to develop tension outlets.
- Avoiding the buildup of festering
resentment means that each partner must be open and honest about his or
- Many conflicts that could otherwise have
been handled constructively work out poorly for a couple simply because
occurred at the wrong time.
- While communication is not a cure-all, it
is important not to handle conflict with the silent treatment or by
hoping that everything will turn out well with the passage of time. One
communicate without ceasing.
- People who are happily married for many
years believe in the importance of both accommodation and compromise in
A. Leveling - saying what you mean, and how you feel. Try to be aware
of the source of conflict when it comes. Face up to conflict,
it without becoming defensive or hostile.
Conflict should be used to attack problems,
not one’s spouse. Couples
must keep loving while they are
B. Active Listening - Focus your whole attention on the other while
they explain their complaints. Make gestures that communicate
Occasionally stop the explanation and clarify.
C. Attacking the Source of the Conflict and not the person.
D. Role Taking - actually put yourself in the other person's place.
Restate the problem from the other's point of view.
E. Comparing Mutual Goals
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