It should come as no surprise that two people living together, running a household, and possibly raising children are going to have some disagreements. Conflict is a normal part of every marriage. In order to create a happy and lasting marriage, you need to learn how to resolve conflict in a positive way.
There are many causes of conflict in a marriage. Some common ones include natural differences between men and women, different opinions or styles for the best way to handle financial or parenting decisions, different expectations (especially where your sex life is concerned), irritability caused by tiredness or stress, misunderstandings, and even a lack of skill in resolving prior conflicts. As human beings, we tend to react to these types of situations with either fight (attacking and defensiveness), flight (removing yourself from the situation and not dealing with it), or just plain giving in to the other person in order to avoid the fight or flight. These responses are detrimental to the long-term health of your relationship, and will negatively affect your level of happiness and satisfaction in your marriage. For this reason, it is important to learn some skills and strategies for positively resolving conflict in marriage. These ten should help you.
1. Stick to the current issue. Don't bring up previous wrongdoings, especially by saying that your spouse "always" or "never" does something the right way.
2. Don't accuse, attack, or criticize your husband or wife. Describe the problem without assigning blame. It may be helpful to use "I feel..." statements instead of "you" statements. Never call your companion names, use profanity, or attack their character. These can be damaging and can also provoke them into tuning you out or becoming defensive.
3. Be kind. Speak softly. The proverb "a soft answer turns away wrath" is especially applicable in marital conflict.
4. Take a break if needed. Use the break to calm down. It may help if you listen to soothing music, take a walk, or use some other method to release your anger in a positive way (not by bad-mouthing your spouse to friends or family members). During the break, don't stew over something that's making you angry or engage in self-justification. Ask yourself if you are blowing something out of proportion or overreacting to the situation.
5. Seek to identify the core problem: the underlying beliefs, attitudes or feelings that are causing the conflict, instead of focusing on a quick "solution" that doesn't address the actual needs of both husband and wife.
6. Seek to understand and validate how your spouse feels. Don't "mind-read" or interpret his or her thoughts and motivations from their behavior. Ask questions. Use reflective communication (repeat back what you understand) in order to make sure there is no misunderstanding. Be honest and open.
7. Work toward a solution that is "our way" instead of "my way" or "your way." Remember you are on the same team. Try to find something that resolves everyone's concerns and is mutually satisfying. During this process, do not focus on what you think your partner should do. Instead, focus on what you can do to work toward a solution.
8. If you are struggling to find an "our way" solution, try taking turns handling something (such as a repetitive parenting challenge). First the husband tries his solution for a period of time while his wife observes without commenting. Then switch roles. Try to learn from the other person's way. See what actually works and learn from what doesn't.
9. Be quick to forgive, quick to admit your own mistakes and ask for forgiveness, and quick to put it all behind you. Don't dredge it up again later.
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