Since the age of Adam and Eve, there has been marital conflict. Couples have since fought over just about everything under the sun, including (but of course not limited to) household chores, the proper positioning of the toilet seat, and finances.

The bickering is often frivolous but can easily intensify. While it is normal to experience relationship conflict, the way we handle it is what's most important. Here are a few tips I have learned in my marriage:

Speak with Intention, NOT for Attention

Conflicts are often best handled in private, especially when dealing with tough topics. In a private discussion, you can express your intentions, ask questions and share concerns. More importantly, a private discussion grants the person on the opposite end the chance to add clarity, since neither side is never 100% right.

When things are made public, your spouse, feeling burdened by the perception of others, may take the defensive approach. Your good intentions will become overshadowed by the perceived attention you have brought to the conflict, which only adds fuel to the fire. Remember, when two come together to find a resolution they only need to forgive one another. The more people you involve, the more complicated a long-term resolution can get. Words spoken with intention can build trust and are often confidential. Words for intention are honest, sincere, but not always easy.  Words spoken for attention can cause frustration, embarrassment and build resentment.  We can all remember a time we were gossiped about, and it is not a good feeling. Let us not do that to people we love.

Use Patience and Empathy to Find the Root Issues

We have all been a part of very tense discussions that are much deeper than the presented argument. These arguments can be the result of frustrations that our spouses are uncertain of how to discuss with us. The lingering issue over time, combined with minor nuisances, can bubble over causing a larger conflict.

Make an intentional effort to explore your spouse’s frustrations until the root issue surfaces.  This will not only take patience, but empathy.  Even if you disagree, your spouse will only open up once he/she feels heard, validated and respected. If you are unable to do so verbally without adding gas to the fire, consider writing a letter. It's an easy way to express your concern without being interrupted.

Choose Your Words

Disagreeing without offending can be extremely tricky, more so when it's a topic your spouse is passionate about. Choosing your words selectively is critical.

You are allowed to disagree, but do not do so at the expense of your spouse's feelings. Express your feelings but continue to remind your partner that their feelings do matter.

Try saying: “I respect that you feel that way. I never considered doing X. I have always done it Y and have found it more beneficial because of Z.” By articulating your viewpoint without belittling your partner’s, you have planted seeds of thought. The more considerate you are of those feelings, the more opportunity you'll have to find a compromise. But by belittling/name calling you've forced them to put up a wall that blocks out any advice you would have to share.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Wrong-doing

Unfortunately, none of us are perfect. In every conflict, there is wrongdoing on both sides. Own up to your end, and apologize. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, and both halves will make mistakes. Just be mindful that the key to a healthy marriage is love, forgiveness, honesty, and communication. The way we communicate is directly linked to the growth of our relationships.

What do you do to resolve conflict in your home? Share your tips in the comments!

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