Conflict in marriage can destroy your relationship. However, conflict can also be an opportunity to learn how to better understand and grow in love and respect for your spouse when handled correctly.
Conflict occurs because you and your spouse are very different people. You do not think the same or have the same likes, dislikes, goals, or expectations. So, conflict in marriage is going to occur.
If you do not have conflict in your marriage, you have either learned how to handle it well through good communication or avoid it and try to sweep things under the rug. The latter can also be unhealthy; I will discuss that in another article.
Here are some strategies to better handle conflict when it arises.
- Take a break or timeout. Don’t continue to fight when tempers are high. You will only get more of the same hurt and anguish and will likely say things you regret. It is essential to take a break and then come back when you can address things in a better way. Cooler heads prevail! This should be a set time limit to cool down and then return to address issues more calmly.
- Remind yourself that your spouse is not your enemy. Though it may feel like it, your spouse is usually frustrated because you are not hearing them, considering their needs, or valuing their opinion. This often comes out as anger and, if left unchecked, resentment. Over time, this makes you believe that they are against you, not for you. But if you view them as your spouse trying to meet their needs and not your enemy, you can approach them better.
- Neutrally address their issues without attacking their character. They feel blamed when you attack their nature and will most likely be defensive and retaliate. The issue is not who they are as a person. What they are doing or saying or not doing and not saying is the issue. Those are the issues that need to be addressed. Learning to be neutral will take practice, but it makes a massive difference in the outcome when you do not attack them or their character.
- Be willing to take turns listening to each other. Don’t dominate the conversation and choose your way over your spouse’s way. Be considerate and respectful to the other person and allow them to share their thoughts in a non-judgmental way. Be willing to listen and give them time to express themself. If you don’t understand, ask them to clarify what they mean to understand better.
- Be humble and not prideful in your interactions with your spouse. This may be the most crucial step. If you can’t be humble and acknowledge where you are incorrect in your thinking or judgment of your spouse, they may have difficulty listening to you or considering your opinion. If you are unwilling to apologize when you are wrong, they will have trouble trusting that your intentions toward them are for their good.
At our Marriage Rescue retreats, we practice these strategies together. When a couple has years of built-up resentment, it can be challenging to change how they interact with one another. When dealing with your spouse, who feels like an enemy, there is often little to no objectivity.
You must retrain your thinking and heart toward your spouse to handle conflict more effectively.
We hope these strategies were helpful reminders, but if you are stuck, let us know.