“No one wins an argument in a relationship”
“You mean more to me than me proving myself right and you wrong.”
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Conflict Resolution in Marriage
Every couple experiences conflict – conflict of ideas, opinions, preferences, beliefs, perspectives, etc. Some couples will say “We never fight.” In that case, one of two things is happening: They are in denial and one of them is a doormat, or they handle conflict in such a healthy manner that it doesn’t lead to a “fight.” When it comes to conflict, it is all about how you manage it. What you do with the conflict will determine whether it is healthy conflict or unhealthy conflict.
Nobody Wins an Argument
In a relationship, nobody wins an argument. In the words of the song:
‘Cause nobody wins, we both lose
Hearts get broken and love gets bruised
When we light that same old fuse
Again and again – Nobody Wins by Radney Foster
It’s Not About Who’s “Right”
It has been said that “Love means giving up my right to be right, even when I am right!” As the quote indicates, so many times our arguments really boil down to trying to prove ourselves right and “win” the argument. “Right” is often really just a matter of perspective. Two people can witness the exact same incident, but from different perspectives, and they may give two very different accounts of what happened. This is a perfect example of viewing conflict resolution in marriage. So, who is right? They both are! Value your mate’s perspective, even if it is different than yours. You are both “right” from your different perspectives. You don’t have to compromise values or principles, just give up your “right to be right” in the name of love!
Steps for Conflict Management
Follow these steps to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. Caution: You won’t be able to do this if your emotions are too heated. Take time to calm down so that you can work through these steps more rationally and logically.
- Set a time and place for the discussion. Choose a time and place when you will have few or no distractions, including children or technology.
- Agree upon and identify one problem. Be very clear and stick to the one issue only Typically, disagreements arise from financial issues, technology and how it is used, parenting styles, sex, distribution of household chores, in-laws, and scheduling just to name a few. Although you may be experiencing a combination of several, Just choose one and continue through the steps.
- Each person lists the ways they contribute to the problem. Own your part in the issue. Acknowledge what you do, say or feel that contributes to the issue.
- List your unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue. So that you don’t end up doing the same things you have done before and expecting different results (the definition of insanity), list your previous efforts that haven’t worked.
- Each person shares why resolving this is important to them. Why does this issue matter to you? Be clear on the importance that you assign to this issue. Is it to prove yourself right? Is it to promote harmony in your relationship and family?
- Brainstorm solutions. Remember, brainstorming ideas means that no idea is off the table yet. Don’t evaluate ideas…just list them. Here’s an example of brainstorming ideas for the scenario:Aunt Irene is coming for a visit. Where will she sleep?
- In our bedroom and we’ll sleep on the couch.
- She can sleep on the couch.
- She can have Sean’s room and he can sleep on the couch.
- We’ll put Jessica on the couch and Aunt Irene in her room.
- We can clear a space in the garage and put up a cot.
- We can pitch a tent in the backyard and put her out there.
- We can get her a hotel room.
- We can ask the neighbors to keep her.
- We can take her to the women’s shelter
- We can go out of town and she can sleep wherever she wants.
7. Discuss and evaluate solutions. Now it’s time to evaluate the ideas and see if there is a solution or partial solution in each.
8. Each person shares their favorite solution. Having listed the possible solutions, each of you tell the other which solution is your favorite and why it is your favorite solution. Practice your skill of Mirroring. (What I heard you say…)
9. Agree upon one solution to try. You may have to compromise or barter and/or sacrifice, but come up with a solution that you both can agree upon.
10. Each person shares how they will work toward the solution. What will you do personally to contribute to the agreed upon solution? Be specific and be clear.
11. Check back in to assess progress. Agree upon a time and place to discuss your progress and make adjustments if necessary. One week is usually enough to know if you are making progress.
12. Acknowledge and Celebrate! Express appreciation each time you see your mate making the effort to do their part in resolving this issue. A word, a hug, a high five – whatever lets them know that you acknowledge their effort. And don’t forget to celebrate when you have solved or resolved the issue. Do something that you both enjoy and have some fun! Reward yourself because you deserve it!
If you get stuck and are unable to work through these steps and manage your conflict in a healthy manner, don’t hesitate to get marriage help from a marriage coach or counselor, or attend a marriage workshop or retreat. The LoveRecon and ReconCoaching are excellent resources for marriage help and enrichment.