Effect of Unresolved Conflict on Marital Satisfaction and Longevity

Effect of Unresolved Conflict on Marital Satisfaction and Longevity


Marriage relationships are diverse in many ways: race, ethnicity, language, culture, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion and various others areas (Moreau, 2004). Variations of these diverse ways can cause conflict in all marriage relationships. If these conflicts are left unresolved curtain outcomes can have effects on satisfaction and longevity of the marriage. In investigation of these conflicts, we will define what conflict, forgiveness, and confession is and how conflict damage marriages, ways to reduce these conflicts, and the outcomes of unresolved conflicts in marriages.


Every person goes into a marriage with pre-conceived ideals on what they want in a marriage. The wife has hers and the husband has his. It is very possible this marriage is lacking the three base levels of intimacy; intellectual, emotional and physical intimacy (Hawkins, 2011). He says that intellectual/soul intimacy is sometimes misunderstood to be the dynamic interlocking of every area of a couple’s life. This is wrong because every person is made uniquely and they will never exactly be like the other. In Psalm 139:14 (NLT) “says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that our soul knows right”. The intellectual/soul also has knowledge of a spiritual intimacy of marriage. This is an area that many times never reaches intimacy. Hawkins,2008 discusses the issues that men and woman have trouble submitting one to another. In the case of Adam and Eve found in Genesis 2-3, that man was to rule over the land, sea, and sky; and the woman Eve was to follow and submit to Adam. For spiritual intimacy to take place men and woman need to give up their misbeliefs’ of their own lives and to submit to Christ. We cannot submit to one another without submitting to Christ. Until this happens we are not able to put others before ourselves for desires and direction. We have the first step toward accomplishing what Hawkins, 2008 speaks of an intimate marriage. When these issues of intimacy are not dwelt with in pre-marital counseling then conflict will arise (Hawkins, 2008). Hawkins says that there is a great void when this area is not fulfilled. He says that this is an open area that allows Satan to enter and cause a wedge between the husband and the wife like it did with Adam and Eve. Satan twisted the word with Eve and he does the same to mankind today by deceiving us in every area. When we are not in Christ we fall to his devices. One of the greatest areas of Satan’s wedge is submission between husband and wife. The third level is physical intimacy. Physical intimacy does not stand alone or independent of an intimacy of the spirit and soul. The development of physical intimacy requires the wholehearted cooperation of both partners according to Song of Songs, chapter two. They say that ‘when one digs a hole in the ground and not fill it, water will run in it and fill it’ (unknown author, nd). Satan is the same way that he will use that empty place in our lives to begin to attack the marriage. Hawkins says that couples should make sure all areas are cover under the blood of Christ.

Research shows that one out of every two marriages will end up in a divorce and marital dissatisfaction. (Chinitz, 2001).

It seems that with the divorce rate reaching the 50% level and marital dissatisfaction, there is a hidden issue of conflict in most marriages.

Defining Conflict

Conflict is a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands from yourself, others, culture, environment and selfishness (Forsyth, 2010). Conflict according to the bible is of the sinful nature or the works of the flesh as written in Galatians 5: 20 (NLT),” idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division. When a person has conflict they do not have pure motives when they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me (Phil 1:17, NLT). Forsyth (2010) says that conflict is everywhere. He says that conflict is a disagreement, discord and friction that occur when the actions or beliefs of one or more members of a group are not acceptable.

Reasons for Unresolved Conflict

“Whenever you’re in a conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” (Williams, 1990). Unresolved conflicts may occur in their belief systems, financial status, levels of communications, marriage commitment, core marriage views, physical attraction, confession/forgiveness and cognitive.

Unresolved Conflict in Communication

If a couple has a problem in the communication area then there is a violation of what Peterson (2007) calls a talker/ listener theory. The talker must share their thoughts without labeling, accusing, judging, or attacking the person they speaking too. The listener is to provide safety for the listener without agreeing or disagreeing, advising or defending the conversation (Peterson, pg.8). When this theory is violated there are barriers established in the couple’s communications. Some of the barriers are when attitudes differ and the communication start to heat up, tempers rises, anger sets in and if anger/temper is left un- controlled there can be violence or abuse from the male to the female or female to the male (Merten, 2009).

Backus and Williams (2000,) states the direct cause of emotional turmoil are misbeliefs. Misbeliefs are built on lies; then we express those misbeliefs in our everyday communications and actions towards others. This is confirmed in scripture when it says: for as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Pro 23:7, ESV). Misbelief or lies that we tell ourselves and ignore the truth, will lead to; divorce, overeating, smoking lying, drunkenness, stealing, and adultery (Backus, pg. 18). Misbeliefs are communicational lies that we repeating tell ourselves so much that it becomes the truth in our thinking. When this lie becomes a truth in a person’s life, there will be a communications break down between the partners.

Define Forgiveness

Repentance is a necessary ingredient for forgiveness to be fully developed. There is no difference between the human and the Divine forgiveness, though the latter is necessarily more complete. It results in the complete removal of all estrangement and alienation between God and man. It restores completely the relationship which existed prior to the sin. The total removal of the sin as a result of the Divine forgiveness is variously expressed in the Scriptures: “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa 38:17, KJV); “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19, KJV); “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more” (Jer. 31:34, KJV); “I, even I, am he that blotted out thy transgressions” (Isa 43:25, KJV); “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12, KJV). Ideally this same result is attained in human forgiveness, but actually the memory of the sin remains with both parties as a barrier between them, and even when there is a complete restoration of amity the former state of alienation cannot entirely be removed from memory. When God forgives, however, He restores man to the condition of former favor. Release from punishment is involved, though Divine forgiveness is more than this. In most cases the consequences, which in some instances are spoken of as punishment, are not removed, but they lose all penal character and become disciplinary. Nor does the forgiveness remove from human mind the consciousness of sin and the guilt which that involved, but it does remove the mistrust which was the ground of the alienation. Mistrust is changed into trust, and this produces peace of mind (Ps 32:5-7; Rom 5:1, KJV); consciousness of the Divine love and mercy (Ps 103:2); removes fear of punishment (2 Sam 12:13); and awakens love to God.

Define Confession

Confession goes hand in hand with forgiveness. “Confession is a requirement for forgiveness”. Confession is an admission of wrong doing or done something wrong. It is an open acknowledgment of feeling, emotions, or beliefs; declarations of sins confidentially to a priest or God or a specific set of beliefs or practices (Dictionary, 2011).

Unresolved Forgiveness/Confession

Increasingly approaches to marital counseling have emphasized methods of forgiveness and confession; helping couples to move past their conflict and to lay a new foundation of relating that resolves the presenting problem (DiBlasio, 2010). Forgiveness and confessions are hidden in the portals of a person mind which takes a counselor to discern and educate the person and lead them in prayer for forgiveness to set a person free.

Forgiveness and confession are key principles in people’s lives. Forgiveness is vital in healing of the mind, body, spirit and physical sickness (Anderson 2000).In several of Bondage Breakers seminars Neil Anderson lead people in prayer for forgiveness of relationships, spiritual relationships, pass ties of demonic practices and forgiveness of self. This has made a great change in people lives so they can move on with their life. It is noted that the word forgive appears 56 times in the bible and it directly means to forgive. When we forgive others we are forgiven (Mat 6:12, ESV). Forgiveness comes with a price; we have to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness.

Unresolved forgiveness and confession in a marriage can lead to dissatisfaction, termination of the marriage, physical sickness and mental health. Un-forgiveness in couples life or un-confessed sin has a result of producing fear, nervousness, and deception with other physical signs (Thesz, 2010). Conflict in marriages has produced mental illness. Many areas such as abuse in younger years (i.e. mental abuse, physical abuse, or chemical imbalance) are leading studies of mental health issues. There is a case that supports the unresolved conflict of a five year old girl in California who was abused by her Uncle and Aunt for three years. Both relatives abuse her physically which caused this young girl to be in a high emotional state. She spent much time alone, quiet, fearful and not trusting men. She begin to have thoughts of things happening to her that when checked out were not true but she believed that they did happen to her. Example of this is she had a dream that she was in the Arizona when it was bombed in Pearl Harbor; She was born in 1952. This could not have happen, but this is her belief system. The only one that can change her belief system is the person themselves. When the truth of God’s word is present, she denies the truth and believes the deceptive thought. The result is unresolved conflict of renouncing the fear in her life and has lasted for 25 years; seven times in a mental health facility; an average of three weeks to 45 days for stabilization. The satisfaction and longevity of this marriage relationship is in the hands of her maker and a very patience husband.

Unresolved Conflict Leads to Violence in Marriage

A great deal of sociological evidence has been collected in the past three decade on the prevalence of violence among adult partners (Brown, 2004). This information is revealed through law-enforcement system. A survey was completed in 2004 of violence between married men and woman in community. The numbers of participants were 562 couples. They found a significant different in the reports of men and woman as to the number and types of the acts of violence that had taken place in the relationship (Brown, pg. 6).Then a follow up survey was done of the same people and this result that they denied such aggressive acts as they did before. The reason was media proclaims that woman reported violence against woman is higher than violence against men. That is, partner abuse is routinely portrayed and acted upon as though it were almost exclusively about men abusing and victimizing innocent women and, by extension, their children—despite the overwhelming sociological evidence that a significant amount of abuse is also suffered by male partners (Brown, pg., 4). The multitude of different methodologies used to measure various aspects of partner abuse means that comparisons between one set of data and others is fraught with complications (Archer, 2000, pg. 651). When making the decision about violence committed in marriage take in consideration what police records indicate which crime has been reported the most. This study shows that violence committed by men abusing woman is report by woman more than woman abusing men (Brown, pg. 5). This is because the culture has condition men to be tough and manly, the stronger person and it would be considered a weak character if they reported the abuse. Failure to observe the method of reporting can lead to significant misinterpretations (Strause, 1999). To get an accurate number of violence and abuse reported by men and woman, you need to check law enforcement reports.

Counseling Programs for Unresolved Conflict

State-level initiatives are being implemented to educate couples on pre-marital subjects. Education is necessary to reduce the high rate of divorce. Religious organizations are stepping up to reduce the risk of divorce by having members volunteer to provide marriage counseling.

There are not any guarantees that education will reduce the divorce rate, but case studies have shown a slight decrease of divorce (Stanley, 2001). Research on Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) illuminates the (a) potential effects of comprehensive premarital training and (b) issues common in outcome research of this sort (Stanley, pg. 276). The PREP program has these following results:

  • Couples taking PREP are less likely than control couples(taking either program or other alternate programs to break up of divorce up to five years following training (Stanley, pg. 277)
  • Couples taking PREP learn to communicate more positively and less negatively and some of these results are clearly measurably up to five years longevity and satisfaction (Stanley, pg. 278).

Human Services organizations offer programs to help with the assistance of people with their well-being and meet their most basic of human needs. The goal and ability to have compassion and empathy for those less fortunate than ourselves is a human element (Martin, 2011). The programs they offer provide assistance in counseling, utilities, rent, housing, and educational subjects: courtship, finances, and roles of men and woman to name a few. Some programs involve court ordered assessment from behavioral health organizations like Southeastern Behavioral Health Services of Arizona. They provide crisis services, community prevention services, chemical dependency, and youth and family services.

An alternative to all the mention programs is a faith based solution. This seems to be the last resort for most people and can produce the greatest results. This solution is the responsibility of the church through their outreach programs. The secular organizations should integrate a faith base class in their curriculum as part of their program to help the client to make a decision on what services to choose from for their counseling.

Faith-Based Counseling is an approach to therapy in which the insights of theology and spirituality are integrated with the principles of modern behavioral science to help individuals, couples, families, groups and institutions to achieve wholeness and health. Different from other forms of counseling, Faith-Based Counseling is guided by the conviction that emotional illnesses are best healed by taking into consideration both the wisdom of spiritual teachings and the knowledge of human psychology (International Institute of Faith Based Counseling (IIFBC), 2010). People turn to faith-based for a myriad of reasons. They may suffer from a medical illness, such as clinical depression, or they may be experiencing marital difficulties, work related problems or issues with a family member. Whatever the cause, these problems can be overwhelming; causing anxiety, conflict, dysfunction and pain and harming relationships. Also for those looking for a mental health professional that also is attuned to the faith traditions and spiritual dimensions of life. It is potentially dangerous for a pastor or minister without the proper training to attempt to provide faith-based counseling. Certified Faith-Based Counselors use a variety of ways to address emotional problems which stand as barriers to moving through life’s crises and transitions. Based on psychosocial assessments, theological principles, and cultural understandings, the Certified Faith-Based Counselor may recommend one or more of the following ways of helping: individual therapy, group therapy, couples counseling, marriage and family therapy, spiritual guidance and short-term counseling(IIBFC,2010).

Personal Insight

I have completed the Master in Pastoral Counseling, my heart and emotions are tied up with the fact that I have received much information on all the various theories and methods of counseling. Every concept is tools that I can use in my counseling career. The bottom line is that God is in control and the Holy Spirit and his word will bring the healing. However, let us not forget the secular world of psychology. I have been married for 34 years and for the last 24 years my wife has dealing with mental illness. She has been diagnosed with acutely mentally disable with paranoia schizophrenia. We have been in every type of program that is offer in this state. There are times my wife has been stuck in a situation and it has taken the secular psychologist and mental health hospital’s to get her stable and back on the right track. The one thing that I have found is that a person such as my wife is delusional and hallucinating at the same time. The problem has been since child hood. The therapist says that she has a chemical imbalance in her mind which causes the neurotransmitters to rapid fire causing the hallucinating. The medicine she takes calms the neurotransmitters where the hallucinations are stopped. However the delusions will always be there because this is her belief system. The word of God is the only tool that will correct her beliefs and correct the delusions. So I encourage all counselors to use all tools available from the Christian world and psychologist world and select the best from both worlds help the client. Right now the churches don’t use the secular tools of psychology in their program because it is not Faith base and pastors don’t have training in psychology so they avoid the use of these good theories. The secular psychologists are not Christian so they don’t have the tools to present Christ to a client and how to approach that area. So I believe that it is up to us to merge the best of both worlds to bring a holistic healing to our clients.


Counseling in a pastoral environment does not mean the problems or concerns of the people who come for help are any different from the problems and concerns of the people who go to professional counselors. It is Gods desire that the God of peace make you holily in every way, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again (1 Thess. 5:23, NLT). This is a perfect plan for resolving conflict in marriage. Wholeness in the spirit is accomplished by the church. Wholeness in the body is performed by doctors and wholeness in the mind is accomplished by psychologist. To bring holistic healing to every part of the human body; pastors be trained on the mind by psychologist; psychologists be trained on spirituals of God by pastors and doctors be trained on the spiritual and psychological area of person. This way when a person seeks out the help of a pastor then he can direct that person to a doctor or psychologist. When a person seeks out a doctor he has the understanding of the problem and direct that person to a pastor or psychologist; last when a person seeks out a psychologist they would have the understanding how to help that person to send them to a pastor or doctor. This would be a great asset to the community and the people who seek help.

There are tools available to counselors, pastors, therapist and parents that can be used. There is the Pair two test to provide compatibility for couple before they married and to guide for couples who are already married and can give them assistance on resolving conflict in their marriage. There is the DSM-IV test to aid in determining if a person has a mental illness. They have assessment tools that can assist you in finding your personality and spiritual gifting. The assessments for the spiritual gifts can be found at http://www.churchgrowth.org/gifts.cgi. The communication style is found at http://discoveryhealth.queendom.com/communication_short_access.html. The last tool is found http://www.uniquelyyou.net/giftedness/new-user.php. All these assessment tools are available to counselors and have never been used to help my wife.

Also counselors, we use an intake such as the one in the appendixes, we can understand the whole person.

We have been discussing the issue of unresolved conflict in marriages. The time spent on studies tells us how to reduce conflict in marriages. We have statistics that tell us the divorce rate is climbing to 50%, one out of every two marriages. Will this chain of events every change! I believe it will when our fellow petitioners see that there is only way conflict will be reduced and that is doing it God’s way; “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and ALL these things will be added unto us.” (Mat6:33, KJV).


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