Conflict is a part of life - and can be healthy when it drives us to improve our situation. However, it can also drive us apart if not handled properly! So, here are a few tips on resolving conflict within the marriage relationship. First of all, some wisdom from a few ancient proverbs...
"Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." Abiding by this principle will go a long way to solving most conflicts within a relationship! We tend to lash out, get defensive, speak first and think later...you get the picture. How many times have you said something and then regretted it for days or longer? Slow down...take your time...breath deeply. Many times, just taking the time to listen and gather thoughts before responding will prevent a ton of conflict.
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." When you do respond to someone else, make sure you do it with kindness. Be nice! Treat your spouse with respect just like you would anyone else (hopefully, you treat others nicely!). We tend to treat those we love the most with the least amount of respect. Turn that around and treat them the best!
"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Always try and have in view the idea of healing and repair as you talk and respond. The goal is to solve the issue, not tear each other down or win the argument. It is not a dual!
When you do have an issue to solve, here are some tips on how to have a healthy discussion.
1. Set a time and place. May times, we try to discuss issues on the fly when we are angry or in a hurry or tired. Not a good idea! Make a plan to talk when there are no distractions and you have plenty of time.
2. Try and come to a mutual agreement on what the issue is - agree on the problem so you can work towards a solution together.
3. How do each of you contribute to the problem. This is not a fault finding session but an exploration of how the problem evolved.
4. Brainstorm potential solutions without being judgmental or critical, then sift through the ideas and evaluate for solutions.
5. Agree on a solution and then discuss how each will contribute to the solution.
6. Set up a future time to get back together and evaluate progress. (Along the way, look for ways to praise each other for positive contributions.)
While the above process may seem a bit formulaic, it can really help if you are struggling with being able to handle issues in a calm, diplomatic way. As you engage each other in this way, it will become more intuitive and automatic over time. Sometimes we have to train ourselves to behave a certain way, especially if we are conditioned to handle things in an unhealthy manner.
Give it a try! Bottom line - treat each other with kindness and respect, respond appropriately, and be intentional about how to discuss and solve issues. Go for it!
One more ancient proverb - "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver" - Beautiful!