By Ron & Ann Mainse
In our almost 33 years of marriage, we’ve had a few tiffs! In the process, we’ve learned a thing or two about each other. While resolving conflicts in a marriage is very personal to each couple, we want to share a few tips that have helped us in working through them.
The first is to identify exactly what the real problem is. She may think it’s one thing while he’s focused on something completely different. Try to boil it down to its lowest common denominator and what basic need is really at issue. For example, while he may think she’s upset because he hasn’t fixed the bathroom faucet… YET… What she really may be communicating is, “I need to know that it’s important to you when something bothers me and if you’re able to do something about it, you will.”
And wives can misunderstand husbands too. While she may think he’s upset because she’s usually running late, it could be…well actually that one is true… I (Ron) am just upset because she’s usually running late! : ) The point is, first you simply need to take a step back and clearly identify the problem. Ask God to help you see it as something separate from your relationship. It’s an issue that you both, together, with God’s help, need to resolve.
Picture it this way… instead of the issue being in the middle and each of you coming at it from a different side (and hurting each other in the crossfire)… picture the issue on one side of the table and the two of you, together, facing it on the other side. You are removed from it so that your relationship is safe, and the issue you are dealing with together is “over there.”
It’s important to deal with one issue at a time. Don’t bring up last week’s issues and connect them to this conversation. I know for me (Ann), sometimes my memories are like spaghetti… each one touching another one. As women, we need to commit that we will stick to the one issue on the table and deal with it alone.
Be sure to watch your tone of voice. It’s tempting for one of you to adopt a parent-child posture in the conflict, making the other feel condescended to and disrespected. Also, watch out for “the battle mode.” You know when the temperature of the conversation starts heating up to an unhealthy point, so agree beforehand that if that happens you’re going to call a “time out” and “step away from the table” until things cool down.
Remember, the goal is to have a win-win for your relationship. If there’s a winner AND a loser, that means you’ve both lost because of the damage done! Part of that win-win needs to be an apology…which doesn’t mean someone has lost. It means that “pride” has been taken out of the way, leading to a healing atmosphere.
A great way to wrap things up is to pray together and thank God, the great Healer, for helping you get safely to the other side of that conflict, for what you’ve learned about each other, and for actually strengthening your marriage in the process.
Those are just a few ideas you can use to successfully navigate your way through those inevitable times of conflict.
And remember… closer to God means closer to each other!
Until next time,
Ron & Ann