Interpersonal Conflict 101

A couple of months ago, I was teaching a course on Interpersonal Conflict. My first thought when given the course was, “is this a ‘how to’ class? cuz I got this!” In my interpersonal family relationships, I am able to throw down with the best of them. I am quick on my feet and sharp witted. In my marriage, we don’t have conflicts. Let me repeat that so you can completely fathom what I wrote, WE DON’T HAVE CONFLICTS. CoupleDumb has mentioned this many times before- we don’t argue and we don’t compromise. I hear you say, ‘But no! Marriage is struggle and fighting and one-liners that the audience laughs at but are said to hurt and hobble your opponent.’ I say, I don’t do marriage like you guys.

When you have the same goals then it is the world that gets the ass kicking

When you have the same goals then it is the world that gets the ass kicking

An interpersonal conflict is defined as such, “Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals” (Wilmot & Hocker, 2010). Let’s break it down and see why we don’t have conflicts.

Conflict is….

An Expressed Struggle:

Most folks know when they are in conflict, right? In marriages, that is not a given. Many times one spouse might be angry at the other and never say anything. We expect them to read our minds or see us be distant. When they don’t, we get even more incensed! How can they be so oblivious? If you don’t say something, there is no conflict- it is you silently torturing yourself because you have this belief that real love includes psychic abilities. It doesn’t.

….at least two Interdependent Parties:

What does it mean to be interdependent? Interdependence is not necessarily being dependent on one another- if it was it would be ‘dependent’. Interdependence means we rely on another to have needs met and the degree to which there is this reliance or dependence, defines the relationship. In marriage, we are interdependent on one another for love, affection, a sense of safety, sex, companionship, and the occasional back rub.

…who perceive incompatible goals:

When you chose to marry your partner, you chose them and all the stuff that goes with that. If you took the time to get to know each other, issues like children, money, and goals were discussed. Here is where we are set apart from the pack. We do not have any incompatible goals. My goals are his and his are mine. If he wants something, I want him to have that. If I want something, he wants me to have that. An incompatible goal would be my beloved decided tomorrow that his new goal was to join the circus as a sword swallower. I would lovingly remind him that he is hardly able to swallow an aspirin and then discuss this with him. There is no need to argue or flip out over such a drastic change to our way of life. It just is something to deal with.

I hear a lot of couples say things like, ‘we grew apart’ and ‘we married too young and had no idea who we were’. I guess we were weird. We had no idea what life would throw at us. What we did know was this- this is a commitment and as long as we are individually happy, we are good.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of this post. Seriously. Come back.

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