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How Emotions Cause Conflict in Marriage

Updated: May 6

Derek and Missy Irvin Discuss How Emotions Can Cause Conflict in Marriage.

Have you ever had a fight with your spouse about something stupid? Whether if it was the proper way to load the dish washer, critiquing each other’s driving, or being distracted by your phone, all married couples can relate to small thing that become a big conflict. Often couples will tell me they fight about stupid things, but I always challenge their premise because (for the most part) couples don’t fight about stupid things. Rather, they fight about really important EMOTIONS that happen to be tied to trivial, stupid things.

Whenever we have conflict, we have emotions. And our emotions put us into motion. The real question is will we control where our emotions want to take us, or will our emotions take us for a ride? When negative emotions get activated, it is easy to create a story in our mind about why this thing is happening. The more we ruminate on the story in our mind, the more the emotion grows until we act in a more aggressive way.

For many, the story comes quickly. Therefore, it is helpful to slow things down. Become aware of what you are feeling in your body as this can become an early warning system.   For example, you may notice a pit in your stomach or tight shoulders, or you feel flush when you start to feel strong emotions. Tune into these bodily sensations and use them as a reminder to slow the chain reaction that can send you into your negative cycle.

We all have a negative cycle we can get into in our relationship. We do or say something, and it pushes our spouses’ buttons and then they do or say something that pushes our buttons. In marriage we are uniquely skilled at pushing each other’s buttons. Emotions are the fuel that drives this negative cycle.

Two mistakes that people make are they either give their emotions too much power or too little attention. When we give our emotions too much power, we become controlled by our negative emotions. When this happens, we tend to react or retaliate and come at our partner with a lot of intensity.

When we ignore or suppress our emotions, we underestimate their influence in our lives.  We think that ignoring them will make them go away, but they are still beneath the surface and tend to pop back up. Trying to suppress emotions is like trying to hold a beach ball under the water.  You may be able to succeed for a while, but eventually you will get tired, and the ball will pop up out of the water with even greater intensity.

Emotions are good at getting our attention, but they are bad at coming up with the solution.

The solution is to become familiar with what you are feeling. If you can name it, you can tame it.  There is something about being able to identify what you are feeling and how that feeling makes sense in this situation that is both helpful and validating. It acknowledges the role this emotion is playing in the situation without giving it the keys to the kingdom. Once you have identified what you are feeling, you can choose to respond in a better way.


Listen to a Story of How God Changed This Marriage!


The good news is that this can be learned. None of us are born knowing how to do this and most of us did not grow up in homes where this was developed or modeled. The key to creating the marriage you want is to have humility, insight, and integrity.

Humility is acknowledging that you have contributed to the problems in your marriage.  Insight is recognizing the ways you have contributed to the problems in your marriage.  There Is no change without insight, but not all insight results in change. You must be willing to do your part. Integrity is doing what it takes to bring lasting change.

Humility          = I may be part of the problem

Insight            = I am part of the problem

Integrity          = I am going to do what it takes to solve the problem


Take the steps to grow together in your marriage.




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