“He who finds a wife finds a good thing”, but does that actually reflect in our marriages today? Marriage is an institution from the Almighty God and it is supposed to be exciting, loving, understanding and above all pleasurable. Just after saying I do in front of the priest, loved ones, and relations at the altar, it looks so beautiful and life seems like paradise without considering whether the proposal came from the man or the woman. Since it is a human institution which involves two different people from different backgrounds, disagreement may set in. As this natural, the very best of marriages have conflicts and disagreements. In 1996, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly(A.M.A.) recorded six hundred and thirty three ( 633 ) dissolved customary marriages out of a thousand even hundred and fourteen (1,714 ) marriages registered. It is against this backdrop that I want to highlight on ways to deal with conflicts in marriages.
But before we take a look at how to solve some of these problems, let us first dive into what marriage is as an institution.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia define marriage as that life long and exclusive state in which a man and a woman is wholly committed to live with each other in sexual relationship under conditions normally approved and witnessed to by their social group society.
Marriage is not the joining of two worlds but an abandoning of two worlds in other that a new one might be formed. Marriage is the closest bond between two people.
In the contemporary cycle, the Oxford Dictionary of the Advance Learners’ English defines marriage as a state in which a man and a woman are formally united for the purpose of living together (usually in other to procreate children) and with certain legal rights towards each other.
John Hagee in his book What Every Man Want From A Woman says that: ‘Marriage is a covenant, which means it is the death of two wills and the birth of one.’ Marriage is the art of two incompatible people learning to live compatible life.
Marriage exposes and reveal who we really are, because when two different characters meet, then there is friction in the intersection of the union.
In business, partners seals their relationship with a contract agreement, enforce by law. In marriage two people enter into covenant with God being the witness.
It is one of God’s greatest schools of learning- it can be a place where the husband and the wife are refined.
Marriage is the pledge of mutual fidelity. It is a partnership of total subordination. A Christian marriage is similar to a solvent, a freeing up of a man and woman to be themselves and become married is the refining process that God will use to have us develop into a man or woman He wants us to become.
CONFLICTS IN MARRIAGES
Conflict came from the Latin word “Confligere” which means strike together. When two or more thoughts, perception, attitude and behaviour strike each other, for example, then there is a conflict. Such conflicts can be experienced through intrapersonal or interpersonal. Conflict is intrapersonal when an individual expresses real or imagined compatibility among needs, goals, or roles. Conflict becomes interpersonal when there is perceived divergence of interest among individuals, group or organization. Interpersonal or social conflicts have been defined in the following manner.
According to Morton Deutsch, Conflicts are power struggles over differences: differing information or beliefs, differing interests, desires, or values. There are also struggles over differing abilities to secure needed resources.
In his book, Conflict Management, Jay Hall define conflict as “essentially the circumstance- both emotional and substantive conflicts which can be brought about by the difference between parties which, for whatever reasons, forced contact with one another.” There are two type of conflict. These are constructive conflict and destructive conflict.
When there is a misunderstanding between a married couple and they are able to resolve it, then the conflict is constructive conflict. This kind of conflict does not destroy but help to deepen the relationship.
The other type of conflict is called the destructive conflict. This kind of conflict destroys relationships. When a husband and the wife has a disagreement they fail to resolve it but rather end up in divorce, then that conflict is destructive. There are many reasons why married couples have conflicts. Time and space will not permit me to cover all that but I will talk bout some conflicts in marriages.
A newly wedded couple was going through difficulty trying to reach a decision regarding the purchase of an item. All the effort of the man to convince the wife to agree to his proposal failed. The next Sunday the husband went to see the pastor in their church. This was the conversation between the man and the pastor.” You don’t look cheerful today Mr. Johnson” the pastor said.” Pastor I think I didn’t pray enough to God before I married Selina” says Mr. Johnson. The pastor then asked ‘Why are you making such a statement after the prayer warriors spent quality time with you and your wife in prayer?’ Mr. Johnson now told the pastor that, since they got married, they have never reached a decision concerning any issue without quarrels.
Nevertheless, conflict in marriages is not a sin. The presence of a problems, tension and argument does not necessarily mean trouble for a marriage.I want to state that, if there is a married couple without conflict it means they are not communicating.
Listed below are the monthly and yearly summary of marriage and dissolution from the year 1990 to 1998 and from 2000to the end of August 2007 s recorded in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly’s Register Of Marriages:
Total Marriage 1035
Total Dissolution 425
Before we take a look at ways to deal with and resolve conflicts in marriages, let us look at a few examples of some recent media reports that degenerate into bloody conflict.
On the 16th of August, it was reported in the ‘Ghanaian Times’ that Saul Kofi Campbell also known as Kofi Carpenter, a coffin maker, went to the house of his girlfriend, Sabina Amoh, 32, who decided to end their two year relationship and woke her from her sleep under the pretext of discussing and important issue with her. Sabina, a seamstress, was found dead in a pool blood at a refuse dump
On August 29th, ‘The Daily Graphic’ also reported of a marital quarrel between a woman and her husband. The woman Ekua Tawiah set herself and her family ablaze, killing the husband and their seven year old son.
On Saturday, August 30, 2008, ‘The Ghanaian Times’ published that a man had allegedly killed his wife because he was suspicious of the calls she has been getting on her mobil phone. Kofi Mensah a palm wine tapper allegedly cut the throat of his wife, Janet Adu, 35, with a cutlass on their farmland and then hanged himself. This tragic incident happened at Praso, near Tanodumasi in the Atwima-Mponua District of the Ashanti Region. The District Police Commander told the Times that, the couple had been married for seven years. He also said they had been having misunderstandings following Mensah’s suspicion that Janet, his wife had been having extra-marital affairs.
Not too long go we heard the shocking news of the break up of Bishop Duncan Williams with hi wife he has been married to for many years. There was news again about his proposed marriage to a wealthy African –American. I am sure if Bishop had managed whatever conflict was there well, he would have prevented this disgrace.
We also read about Esther Smith, a renowned gospel musician and her husband Rev. Ahinkan Bonsu. Esther Smith, we were told accused the husband of casting a spell on her and having an affair with their maid. The husband, Rev. Ahinkan also accused the wife, Esther of flirting with one, Fiifi at Tema habour before and after their marriage. The story went on to tell us that Esther told her husband that he is not the father of their first two children. Now their marriage is over.
One can go enumerating horrific examples of conflicts in marriages and other relationships that have ended up in the police station or in the law court.
A marriage counselor, Rev. Dei Awuku, said two issue need to be considered when discussing conflicts in marriage. He said there are some husbands who for years stomach a whole lot of problems they encounter in their marriage, because they think their peer will tease them when they talk about their marital problems with them. When they can no longer contain the situation, there is an explosion. He stressed the need to make counseling service available to “would be” as well as married couples, who are both in religious marriages and under customary marriages to enhance understanding and peaceful resolution of conflict in marriages.
Mr. Gifty Afenyi Dadzie, the National Prayer Director of the Women Aglow International, said, the rampant conflict in some marriages indicate that “the agape love as mentioned in the Bible is missing in relationships”. She said most of us keep records of the wrongs in our relationships and we don’t forgive one another. She advised partners to use dialogue when there are problems.
“Youth, family Adults” an on line journal has some tips on dealing with the situation.
It advice spouse to discuss their value and feeling about money so that each partner can understand the other, to work out a budget and set priorities and goals for the future
It points out that in-laws are problematic in early years and can trigger conflicts within the entire family. It advises spouse to deal with in-law problems by sharing their feeling and discussing what kind of relationship they what want with their in-laws.
It states that this is an emotional issue and most spouse are afraid to be hurt or rejected by their partners so they avoid discussing their feelings about sexual issues. It advices that couple should resolve conflicts about sexual matters by communicating directly, specifically and loving about their needs.
Another online journal, “The Marriage Garden” also listed ways to deal with conflicts in marriage as follows:
Learn to live with things that cannot change
You may wish your partner was different in many ways. Some of those things simply cannot change. Learn to accept that. Be glad that your partner can bring qualities that you do not have.
Do not dwell on your complaints
Sometime we feel irritated about things in our relationships, we list our complaints and get angry about them. By the time we bring out the problem we my have killed ourselves into being mad. Rather than big complaints, we can make request along the way.
Rather than argue bout details, find common ground
In any disagreement it is easy to get stuck arguing about who did what and why. Don’t waste time dealing with such issues. Instead, focus on ways you can help each other.
Hold regular couple councils
Few couples regularly talks about relationship concerns, most of time, what begins as a small issue becomes larger problems that threaten to destroy relationships. Couple can use council to nip problems in the bud.
Plan a specific time and place each week when you and your spouse can talk alone together for at least 30 – 60minutes without distraction or interruptions. Use the meeting to take stock of how the relationship is going and to discuss problems.
When people feel attacked and angry, they do not think as clearly as when they are calm. We can do things to help ourselves and our partners feel calmer. We can start discussion without attacks: “I would like your idea on n issue”. We can look for solutions rather than accusation: “Do you think it would help if...?” If we are feeling too frustrated, we may need to reschedule our discussions. “I need some time think about what you re saying. Could we talk about this tomorrow?”
Couple should agree to limit criticism; they must make sure criticism remain a small aspect of their marriage and never a central part. When there is problem instead of criticizing your partner, limit it and criticism should come constructively.
Agree to attach problems and not each other. A huge part of healthy communication involves never doing or saying anything that might injure the other. No hitting below the belt. Your marriage must be a safe place where you never experience harm. While you won’t always agree you must always treat each other with respect. This must be a basic premise of every interaction.
Develop skills that enhance positively into your marriage. You must always remember how and why you fall in love with your mate. Set aside time to have fun, laugh and experience joy.
It is a fact that simple skills when practiced regularly can help to stabilize your marriage. Share whatever you like and appreciate about your partner. Learn to share all your hopes and dreams. Discuss any change in plans and situations.
Never let a misunderstanding turn into an argument. Clear up the air as soon as possible. If there is something you don’t like be open and tell your partner how you want it done instead of criticizing.
Even marriages that seem unhappy often become very satisfying over time if both partners prevent anger from taking over. In fact differences in marriages can help us grow and a help us build a better relationship.
GHANA BROADCASTING CORPORATION
1) Making Your Marriage Enjoyable: A Biblical And Contemporary Perspective
Bright Michael Adofoh
2) The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia
(Nashville: Word Publishing International,1986, Page 26
3) Seven Secrets to Sanity for Stressed Women
Van Pelt, Nancy L. Get Organised
Revier and Herald Publishers Association 1998
4) The Nature of Conflict and Conflict Resolution
S. Worebel and S.Lundgren
5) In Community Mediation: A handbook for Practitioners and Researchers
K.G. Duffy, J.W Grosch and P.V. Olczak.
6) Conflict: Productive and Destructive
7) Conflict Management Survey
8) Wives wish Their Husbands Knew About Women
Wheaton III Tydale Press, Page 133.
9) What Every Man Want From A Woman
Dallas Word Publishing, Page 54.
10) The Ghanaian Times
11) The Daily Graphic