There used to be a humorous saying that the first big argument in marriage was a sign that the honeymoon was over. Some couples believe that to have a perfect marriage, they must never argue. They incorrectly assume that the union is doomed if there are arguments and conflicts in the relationship.
This cannot be further from the truth. Conflict is a natural reaction when two individuals express their wants and needs. Conflict will strengthen your relationship if you employ conflict resolution strategies while maintaining your integrity and your spouse’s honor.
Why conflict is good for your marriage.
Marital conflict is healthy if handled appropriately. Each person has an opportunity to voice their opinions and actively listen to their spouse about their needs or wants. Expressing your views and thoughts also shows that you feel safe in the relationship and with that person.
Marriage is the union of two people; two people become a team after the wedding. To resolve conflict, you must work together to reach a resolution. Solving the problem might mean going with your idea, agreeing to try your spouse’s way, compromising on a solution that works for both people, or agreeing to disagree.
It is not healthy for you to fear your spouse. If you are afraid to express your opinion or argue with your spouse when appropriate, speak to someone. This behavior is a red flag that there may be deeper issues at work. You should always feel safe, even during conflict.
Conflict resolution strategies for your marriage.
Below are conflict resolution strategies that may help in the heat of the moment when you are more likely to say or do the wrong thing or walk away from your spouse.
Do not play the blame game.
Refusing to accept personal responsibility for your part in the conflict will cause communication problems with your spouse. When one of you shifts the blame, the other person is left to respond defensively. Communication breaks down. Each person should stay accountable for their actions without pointing blame at the other person or assuming all the responsibility for themselves.
Shifting all the blame on one person when they are not responsible is emotionally draining and a form of manipulation. Instead, admit your part in what happened. When pointing out your spouse’s part in the conflict, keep your voice even and calmly explain how you see the situation. Do not yell. Remind your spouse that you both play a role in the conflict, and then offer suggestions you can both take toward resolution.
Do not take it personally.
When it comes to an argument in your marriage, it is hard not to take it personally, especially if your spouse says or does something that is meant to hurt you emotionally. People who feel they are losing an argument will sometimes attack your character, point out a perceived flaw, or resort to name-calling.
This person does not know how to argue effectively. People will sometimes reach a breaking point emotionally or snap after a stressful work day or while under duress. If this is you or your spouse, you may want to seek the help of a counselor.
Conflict resolution strategies teach people to argue effectively without name-calling or insults. Try to extend empathy toward your spouse and understand what is behind their behavior. You may need to explain to your spouse objectively that their words hurt you.
Watch your words.
In the heat of the moment, we may say things we do not mean. But, unfortunately, our words cut like a knife and can tear people down far more than we realize. The Bible is specific about how our words can hurt others.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. – Proverbs 18:21, NIV
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18, NIV
Our words can also bring healing. Avoid words like never and always. Refrain from saying mean or derogatory comments during an argument with your spouse. When you sling insults and hurtful comments at others, you close off the communication channel. This can cause your spouse to shut down and become defensive.
Practice active listening.
While angry, do you often tune out the other person as you formulate your response? When our thoughts and emotions overrun our minds, we stop listening and focus on how we will respond. Our spouse can tell when we are not listening. This leaves them feeling unheard and thinking you do not care about the situation.
During an argument, listen intently to your spouse. Ask questions or repeat details for clarity to show you are paying attention. Keep yourself from interrupting. Listen to your spouse’s ideas for a solution, even if you do not immediately agree. Give them the freedom to express their thoughts before offering your suggestion.
Do not get defensive.
If you stay in a defensive mindset, you will find it difficult to reach a satisfying resolution. Your spouse is human also and will become defensive if you are slinging insults or blaming them for the situation. When someone feels as if they are constantly being attacked or criticized, they tune out the other person.
Instead, try to remain open to suggestions on how to solve a problem. Be willing to work as a team with your spouse. You may need to compromise. Sometimes it takes a slight shift in perspective. Try to ask yourself, “What if we did try it their way?” If your spouse is defensive, reassure them that you want to work together to resolve this conflict.
Do not belittle your spouse.
Belittling your spouse during an argument is another form of manipulation and emotional abuse. Verbally attacking another person to win a dispute is ineffective communication and will cause a rift in your marriage. Instead, spouses should build each other up and be helpmates.
Do not allow the circumstances to dictate your behavior. Sometimes you feel exasperated with your spouse, but turning those thoughts into fiery arrows and piercing your loved one is not the answer.
Pause and take a deep breath during the argument. Is there a more constructive way to handle this? For example, if your spouse belittles you, point out their criticism and inform them that it hurts you and does not help find a solution. Often, spouses do not mean to hurt each other and are unaware of their speech. They may have grown up in a household where this is how people argued.
You may need professional help to intervene if you or your spouse do not know how to argue effectively.
Do not go to bed angry, but do take a breather.
Love and hate are the two most passionate emotions. When you throw anger into the mix, terrible things can occur if you are not under control. You must control yourself during an argument, even when it escalates.
If you need to, go into another room and away from your spouse until you think clearly. This doesn’t mean walking away, going to bed angry, and never resolving the issue. It is okay to take a break to calm down and then come back together to work through things. Seek help if either one of you struggles with anger management.
Anger opens a door for sinful actions. Physical and emotional abuse is often born out of uncontrollable rage. You cannot tolerate abuse, which can lead to trauma or fatalities. Seek help immediately if you are being physically abused or fearful of your spouse.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26, NIV
When you need more than conflict resolution strategies.
Conflict resolution strategies may not always be enough to overcome a hurdle and resume a peaceful household. Sometimes the problems are complex, the couple is in emotional distress, or someone is experiencing a mental health condition like depression.
If you cannot resolve the issues in your marriage, contact our office today to schedule an appointment with a counselor specializing in relationship issues. A counselor can help you learn new conflict resolution strategies customized to your situation and individual personality. Call our office today.
“Knock Down Drag Out”, Courtesy of Afif Kusuma, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pointing the Finger”, Courtesy of Dan Burton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Damascus Steel Sword”, Courtesy of Anis Rahman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Comfort”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License