The Top 10 Mistakes Couples Make During Conflict


Michael Smalley shares the top 10 mistakes that couples make during conflicts. Avoiding these mistakes not only help you avoid arguments, but may also preserve your marriage.

What causes divorce? Seems like a complicated question, but in reality, it is quite simple.  Researchers like Drs. Scott Stanley, Howard Markman, and John Gottman have all discovered basically four reasons why couples divorce.  Four! Not thousands, but only four reasons why couples end up divorcing.

I’ve written about these before, but let me give them to you once more.  Couples divorce when they respond to conflict by:

  1. Escalating – yelling, screaming, basically getting out of control.
  2. Avoiding – running away from conflict.
  3. Dishonoring – name-calling and basic character assassination.
  4. Developing negative beliefs – your spouse can not win, no matter what because you have a belief that is negative and possibly incorrect.

These four are the first four mistakes couples make when they get in to conflict. These are the primary mistakes that lead to divorce, but there are more mistakes couples make that do not lead to happy marriages and these other mistakes are secondary, and can most certainly relate back to the first four.

If you want a happy marriage, which I’m pretty sure each and every person who gets married wants, then you have to learn how to avoid these pitfalls during arguments. Arguments are not bad, it is how we respond to arguments that either makes or breaks our marriage (or any relationship).

The other six mistakes couples make during conflict are:

  • They don’t take a time-out when feelings get hurt or things get heated.
  • They play the blame game.
  • They kitchen-sink every argument ever experienced.
  • They go to a third party to complain.
  • They flip flop who’s at fault.
  • They invalidate each other’s feelings or needs.

1. They don’t take a time-out when feelings get hurt or things get heated.? If you do not take a break and relax, your conflict is going to get out of control. Take a step back and breath. Calm down, and then reengage with each other.

2. They play the blame game.?Do you like it when you’re blamed for something? Probably not, so don’t do it to your spouse. Blaming only leads to more misery. The more you take personal responsibility, the better your marriage will get.

3. They kitchen-sink every argument ever experienced.?Does it feel helpful to bring up past arguments when you are arguing in the present? Does it ever go well to remind your spouse of other times they totally messed up? No. So don’t bring in the past, keep focused on the present and resolve one conflict at a time.

4. They go to a third party to complain.?It is okay to have a close friend where you can get validated and loved well. You can even complain from time to time about something that happened between you and your spouse. But do not make this a habit and you must only talk with a close friend of the same sex. It is never okay to complain about your spouse to the opposite sex, that will only lead to more problems and heartache. When you spend your days complaining about how “bad” your spouse is, you set yourself up to develop powerful negative beliefs that are very hard to get rid of.

5. They flip flop who’s at fault. If your spouse comes to you with something you did to hurt or frustrate her, do not turn the table and point out something that bothers you. There is nothing more frustrating and hurtful than when your spouse turns the table on the conflict. If your spouse approaches you about an issue, take it like a man (or woman) and stick to that issue. No one likes a flip flopper!

6. They invalidate each other’s feelings or needs. Validation is my wife’s biggest passion for couples. Her quote when she teaches this concept is so powerful, “You are more important to me than proving myself right or proving you wrong.” Just listen and validate. Do not argue with your spouse about facts or try to justify or explain your actions. Keep quiet and simply ask, “What do you need from me right now?” This is a powerful question that can disarm even the angriest person.

These are 10 of the craziest things people will do when they get in to conflict with their spouse. Great marriage do not just happen, they are built through enrichment and education. Either you are working on your marriage and learning how to better love each other, or you are getting worse.

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