I always say a couple with a good conflict resolution system can survive the largest problems in a relationship, while a couple with no conflict resolution system can fall apart over the most minor disputes.

Here’s a story from CNN.com about a bickering couple who found a way to resolve their conflicts on the verge of divorce.  Akilah and Kris Richards, both in their early 30s, married eight years ago.  They have two young children.

“I liked that Kris was really laid-back,” says Akilah, “and he appreciated my big personality.”  But shortly after their marriage, these qualities started to become sources of irritation and they began arguing almost constantly.

Things came to a head one night when Kris gave their daughter a stern reprimand for climbing onto a stage during a performance.  Akilah angrily told Kris he was overreacting.  They began to fight and Akilah announced she wanted a divorce.

They agreed to a rehearsal of what they would say to their chlidren.  They found themselves discussing instead their different styles of communication.  Kris felt like Akilah was cross-examining him.  Akilah felt Kris would withdraw instead of talking to her.  They agreed to set aside some time to think things through before trying to resolve them.

“A lot of people have a misconception that marriage is the culmination of a relationship,” says Kris. “Far from it. Marriage is a constant process of finding the best possible way to connect with another person–and that’s what Akilah and I want from each other.”