7400.201 Courtship Marriage and the Family
Chapter 11: Power and Conflict in Marriage
People encouter enormous stress over their lifetimes as they attempt to raise families and live their lives. The text mentions stress that comes from within the family, between husband and wife or between parents and children..  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 day-to-day 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. Quite often the symptoms of Abnormal stress are the same as Normal stress, depending on the courage and fortitude of family members. Similarly, Outside causes of stress can cause damage to the family even though they are the fault of no one in the family.  Also, some families seem to do well when under severe abnormal stress, while others can't seem to withstand the slightest snag in their routine. While being socialized, some people experience more of life, and therefore have more experience to draw on in times of crisis. Others are sheltered more from life's experiences, and have less to use when faced with tough times. The moral of the story is this:
  1. Never think you are so smart that you have nothing to learn from others and from life.
  2. Keep your eyes open and be slow to comment on what's happening around you.
  3. Listen to people who are older than you when they offer advice. You don't have to take their advice, but they might say something that you can use.
The Issue of Power in Marriage: Power is the ability to get another person to think, feel, or do something they would not have ordinarily done spontaneously. If one possesses the means to affect another, one has power 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.       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 injustice in a marriage. Marriage can involve conflict and a struggle for power within the relationship.

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 that are against their moral or ethical code. In order to maintain the balance of power in a marriage relationship, the partners must constantly work towards equality in the marriage.

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 our attitudes. There are various ways that spouses can attempt to either exert or avoid power when communicating with each other. First, a conversation can be either symmetrical or complementary. There are three types of symmetrical discussions: competitive, neutralized, and submissive. In complementary interaction, the two spouses indicate agreement that one is dominant and the other is submissive.

Lack of conflict is not necessarily the sign of a good marriage.
Areas of Conflict - conflict is a direct result of power struggles in marriage.
    A. Money - the number 1 area of conflict for people in their first marriage (Remarried people fight about their children more). Fighting about money can be resolved by:
    1. Keeping track of debts and payments
    2. Careful checkbook management
    3. Keeping spending patterns of each person under control.
    4. Being in agreement about strategies for money management
    5. Making spending decisions together
    B. Work - the 2nd biggest trouble maker is argument over time spent at work - particularly husbands who work too much! Other areas under work disagreements:
    1. Should wife work outside the home?
    2. Balancing housework and chores with work outside - who cleans what?.
    3. Child care and nurturing of children - equal child care responsibilities
    4. Relationship maintenance and romance - Time for the couple or there'll be no couple!
    C. Sex - 3rd in frequency of disagreement is the general area of sex - the frequency, the quality, and sometimes infidelity.
To know what people fight about is not necessarily to know why they fight. There are social, interpersonal, and personal sources of tension.
Destructive Consequences of Conflict - If left unresolved, conflict can fester into emotional wounds that are hard to heal. The best practice is to never allow conflict to continue for very long.
    A. Frustration = the emotion that is experienced when an important need is being blocked or when an important satisfaction is being denied.
    B. Rejection and Betrayal - resulting in
    1. Rejection follows conflict involving a basic needs going unmet
    2. Emotional involvement with another person usually involves dropping the defenses we normally keep in place - Therefore: rejection by an intimate we have come to trust and upon whom we rely is a very basic form of Betrayal.
    3. Lowered Self-Esteem = We chip away at each other in some sort of Zero-Sum Game we play. This devastates the relationship.
    4. Displacement - when our feelings are hurt and we suffer loss of self-esteem, 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 convenient or safer disagreement.  Sexual conflicts, for example are often displaced to safer topics of discussion
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.

Attack and Defense (styles of conflict)
There are different styles of conflict. Competition involves a high concern for oneself and a low concern for the other. Avoidance involves little concern for your own interests or for the interests of the other. Accommodation is the opposite of competition; it is a neglect of one’s own interests in order to pursue the interests of the other. Compromise involves some concern about both one’s own interests and the interests of the other. Collaboration is the opposite of avoidance; it is a high degree of concern both for one’s own interests and for the interests of the partner.
Constructive Conflict Resolution - There are certain principles of good fighting.
Conflict should be used to attack problems, not one’s spouse.      Couples must keep loving while they are fighting.

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