How To Come Together In Conflict
Sometimes the most intense conflicts in marriage are over the most trivial issues. Recently a couple shared that they were arguing over decorations in their home. She believed that objects should be placed in groupings of three, and therefore she had arranged two whales and a sea lion together. Her husband moved the sea lion because he, being a Navy man, said that you never see whales and sea lions together. Each had their own perspective. So, who was right?
If you are insistent on always being right -on “winning” – you will most definitely always lose.
No one wins an argument in a relationship unless you both win. If one of you loses, you both lose.
Causes of Conflict
Conflict arises because we are individuals, two unique persons with different preferences, viewpoints, needs, and desires. These play out in the main areas of our relationships – money, sex, in-laws, children, and communication. At the root of most disagreements in these areas is the attitude of selfishness, wanting what I want, how and when I want it!
There are also some typical ways that we learn to deal with conflict as we mature into adulthood. They are:
- Win at all costs. “My way or the highway! I’m right, and you’re wrong. The only way that this will be resolved is if you agree with me.”
- Withdraw. “There is no way that I’m going to argue. I pull back and hope it all goes away or blows over.”
- Surrender. “I give up. I give in. You win. I’ll keep the peace and become a doormat until one day I explode!”
- Meet in the Middle. “We compromise – win some, lose some.”
- Our mutual solution. “Our relationship is more valuable than what we tend to disagree about. Therefore, I desire a mutually agreed upon way to move forward.”
Here are some practical ways to move forward together – to come together instead of coming apart:
GET SPIRITUALLY CENTERED
Spend some time thinking, praying, and meditating to calm and center yourself. Sometimes what will happen is that your heart and mind will change about the matter. This is also true of your spouse in that they may also change. Before you attempt to deal with the problem or issue, call on God for help. Vent your feelings, hurts, disappointments, and even your anger to God.
OWN YOUR PART
Before you accuse, attack, or blame, do an honest evaluation. Ask yourself, “How much of this is due to my words or actions? Is my selfishness to blame for this? Am I the problem?” I need to admit my part in the issue humbly.
Many marriages end because the couple believes that they are incompatible. Dr. Paul Tournier, the Swiss psychiatrist who wrote To Understand Each Other: “So-called incompatibility is a myth invented by jurists in order to plead for divorce. It is likewise a common excuse for people to hide their own weaknesses and failings. Misunderstandings and mistakes can be corrected when there is a willingness to do so. The problem is the lack of complete frankness.”
CALL A PEACE CONFERENCE.
Don’t be afraid to have a sit-down, face-the-issues meeting, or meetings. That is what it is going to take. Conflict must be dealt with intentionally and deliberately. Matters only grow worse if you ignore them. Your hearts will grow harder, and your positions will become solidified.
Don’t ignore it. Deal with the issue while you can deal with it. It doesn’t matter if you are the offended person or the offender. Either way, you take the initiative. The ball is in your court. When? As soon as possible. Don’t delay. Don’t postpone. Postponed conflict only gets worse.
Here are some guidelines for your peace conference:
- Choose the right time. This is critical. Timing is everything. Don’t do it as you’re walking out the door or your spouse is nodding off to sleep. Don’t do it when the kids or others are in the room. The best time to have a peace conference is when you are both at your best.
- Choose the right place. Choose a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted. A word of advice: Save the bed for other things. You don’t want to share your deepest feelings about something and then hear snoring in response!
- Come with a hopeful and positive attitude. Come together. Sit down and hold hands and tell your spouse what your hope is for this time. Use “we” and “me” and “I .”Avoid using “you.” Don’t accuse, blame or shame your spouse.
- Watch your words. Never use the threat of divorce. Agree to eliminate certain phrases like “you always” or “you never.” Yelling is not acceptable.
- Consider your mate’s perspective. This can be challenging because it is not natural to look at life from your mate’s viewpoint. However, it is the secret to resolving conflict. It is healing to be empathetic with their feelings and validate them, even when you disagree. It sends that message that “I value you, even when we disagree. You and our relationship are important to me.”
- Work for reconciliation, not resolution. Resolution means that every issue is resolved. Reconciliation means that our relationship is re-established or restored. We are turning toward each other in love instead of turning away from each other in hurt, anger, or misunderstanding. This is critical because some issues will never be resolved, but the relationship can still thrive and be mutually satisfying despite the differences.
Schedule a peace conference with your spouse today to deal with the issues you have been avoiding. Things will only get worse if you don’t. If you need professional help, don’t be ashamed or afraid to reach out for it. Love Recon and Recon Coaching are two great sources of support for you and your relationship. It’s what we do!