Types of Marital Conflict 

Marital conflicts can arise from many sources, related to the relationship, caused by the personal problems of one spouse, or simply a lack of communication leading to a perception of a problem or lack of resolution to one. The same issues that lead to emotional stress among individuals, such as lack of self-esteem, parental relationships and money and career problems can affect marriages, as well.

Communication is a key element in avoiding and solving marital conflicts. 

Division of Labor/Roles

One area that can create problems in a marriage is the amount of work each partner perceives they are performing in the relationship. A husband may feel it’s unfair that he must work “all day” to bring in the money that pays for the household, then do chores around the house when he gets home, then spend his weekend doing even more work. If the husband relates a full-time job to Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, he can perceive his duties around the house as having to work seven days a week, while his wife gets to “stay home” all day. The wife, on the other hand, may see taking care of a household, children and a husband as a 24/7 job that never ends, while her husband can escape to the office. This type of conflict creates a tendency for men to withdraw in response to the conflict, according to marriage and divorce expert Frank D. Fincham, a professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York.

Improper/Lack of Communication

Men and women communicate differently, according to Dr. Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. This can lead to miscommunication, in addition to a lack of communication. In the division of labor example above, not discussing the perceived unfairness one or both spouses feel about their workload in the relationship can lead to resentment and destructive behavior. The male may withdraw while the female may attempt to shift more chores to her husband, or decrease her effort around the house. This creates a downward spiral of more problems.


Make sure you both absolutely don’t want children before you get married, or that you can live without a child (or will adopt) if one of you turns out to be infertile. Children are a major reason for marriage for many people, and if a couple is unable to produce offspring, one or both may begin to question the value of the relationship. Women see infertility as a more pressing problem than men. From their relationship with their doctor to discussing the problem with friends to understanding each other’s feeling, the differences can remain unresolved as men try to support women, while women seek cooperation in the problem solving process from husbands. The husband feels that by agreeing with his wife he is supporting her, while the wife may feel the husband is not participating by offering solutions. This can cause the man to feel left out, according to Roberts.

When a person who wants children agrees to marry a partner who doesn’t, that poor decision often rears its ugly head a few years into the marriage. Just as children promise parents they’ll walk and feed the dog if mom and dad buy a puppy, a desperate female might promise to do all of the work raising a child a husband doesn’t want. No man will fall for the ruse that he can have a child without putting in lots of time, work, emotional capital, money and loss of freedom. A man who lobbies a wife to have a child has no idea the incredible commitment a women faces, and pushing for a child after she made it clear she doesn’t want one can send her running faster than almost any other reason.

Additional Resources

Association for Psychological Science: Marital Conflict: Correlates, Structure, and Context

 Healing Infertility: Couples Therapy

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