Handling marital conflicts

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Family Matters

Thomas Kulanjiyil, PsyD, PhD, is a founding member of PARIVAR International. He currently serves on the faculty of College of DuPage. He is co-editor of the book, “Caring for the South Asians-Counseling South Asians in the West.” Dr. Kulanjiyil can be reached at tk@parivarinterntional.org. For any personal or family issues contact Parivar Family Helpline:(877)-743-5711.

By Thomas Kulanjiyil
The breaking up of families, divorce and legal separations are becoming more popular among Indian immigrants today. Legal battles for custody of children, restraining orders against a partner, and reports of domestic violence are becoming too common. Marital disharmony among Indian immigrants is quite often triggered by cultural and emotional incompatibility between spouses, clashes of values, unfair gender role expectations, and disagreements over the handling of finances. Personality characteristics and psychological disorders play a huge role in marital discord too. The history of past and present marital abuses, marital infidelity, and lack of mutual trust and respect for each other keep couples from actively seeking resolutions to their problems.  

Continual relational strain in a marriage destabilizes not only the spouses but also the entire family. It leads to a breakdown in communication, emotional cut-offs and hostility between family members, and an increased sense of isolation and loneliness. Under these circumstances, parenting becomes difficult and challenging. 

Conflicts are unavoidable in a marriage relationship, but learning how to handle your conflicts can make a world of difference. Here are some practical suggestions to tackle  problems in your marriage effectively:

-Recognize that there are problems in your relationship and that resolution can be sought
-Find an appropriate time and place to jointly discuss the problem with your spouse
-Define and identify the nature and the extent of the problem(s)
-Operationally define the problem(s)
-Identify the possible causal factors
-Take personal responsibility for your share of the problem(s)
-Be assertive in verbalizing your thoughts and feelings
-Use appropriate language such as  “I” statements
-Focus  on issues rather than on character faults of your partner
-Commit to resolve the conflict rather than escalating it
-Keep your children away from getting involved in the dispute. Stay away from the temptation to make unhealthy alliances with your children against -he other partner
-Be willing to forgive, to reconcile, and to extend grace to your spouse
-Be open to negotiate, and to “agree to disagree”
-Consider solutions that are more appropriate to your cultural norms and religious values
-Honor mutual agreements
-If issues are beyond what you can handle, seek help from a friend or family member who can impartially mediate between both of you
-Seek professional counseling if the problem is still not resolved

Your marriage may not be perfect but it can get better. Your marriage has ups and downs but you can build it up. With a purposeful commitment to persevere your marriage, together with the willingness and ability to turn your conflicts into opportunities for personal growth and learning, you can nurture a satisfying relationship that can enrich both you and your spouse. This is the mark of a growing marriage.
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