*10 Things You Can Do to Resolve Conflict without Fighting
As a part of our ongoing commitment to form partnerships with those who are partnering together in this life we’ve been discussing how to strengthen marriages and relationships inside of our church using The Song’s curriculum as our starting point for the past few weeks. This past week we discussed how to “fight fair” or as the article suggest, how to leverage conflict in our marriages and relationships to grow closer together.
- Deal with disagreements as soon as possible. Confront issues as they arise. The longer a conflict stews, the larger the issue becomes; time tends to magnify a hurt. As the Bible says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26).
- Be specific. Communicate clearly what the issue is. Don’t generalize with words like “never” or “always.” When you’re vague, your spouse has to guess what the problem is. Try something like, “It frustrates me when you don’t take the trash out on Mondays,” rather than, “You never do what you say you’re going to do.”
- Attack the problem, not the person. Lashing out at your spouse leaves him or her hurt and defensive. This works against resolving conflict. Your goal is reconciliation and healing in your relationship. Let your mate hear what the problem is from your point of view. Say something like, “I’m frustrated that the bills didn’t get paid on time,” instead of, “You’re so irresponsible and lazy. You never pay anything on time.”
- Express feelings. Use “I” statements to share your understanding of the conflict: “I feel hurt when you don’t follow through.” “It makes me angry when you tease me in front of your friend.” A void “you” statements like, “You’re so insensitive and bossy.”
- Stick with the subject at hand. Most people can deal with only one issue at a time. Unfortunately, many spouses bring two or three issues to an argument, trying to reinforce their point. This confuses the confrontation and doesn’t allow for understanding and resolution. It’s better to say, “It hurt my feelings when you didn’t include me in your conversation during dinner with our friends,” rather than, “You never include anyone, you always think of yourself. Whenever we’re with other people, you always ignore me. Everyone thinks you’re selfish.”
- Confront privately. Doing so in public could humiliate—or at least embarrass—your spouse. This will immediately put him or her on the defensive and shut down any desire to reconcile.
- Seek to understand the other person’s point of view. Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes, an exercise that can lead to understanding and restoration. That’s what Mia was doing when she told her sister, “Jeff had a hard day at the office today. His boss chewed him out. That’s why he’s quieter than normal, so I didn’t take it personally. I know when I’ve had a hard day, I need time for myself, too.”
- Set up a resolution plan. After the two of you have expressed your points of view and come to an understanding, share your needs and decide where to go from here. That might mean saying something like, “In the future, it would help to discuss with me how we’ll spend our savings—rather than telling me after the fact.”
- Be willing to admit when you’re wrong. Sometimes a conflict occurs because one person’s behavior was inappropriate. Be willing to confess and ask forgiveness from your spouse if you’ve wronged her or him. That process can help to heal the damage in your relationship. Try something like, “I’m sorry I was unkind to you. Will you please forgive me?” If you’re the offended spouse, be gracious enough to accept your spouse’s apology.
- Remember that maintaining the relationship is more important than winning the argument. Winning an argument at the expense of losing the relationship is a defeat for both of you. Finding a solution that benefits both spouses lets everybody win.
What if the two of you just can’t seem to find that solution? When you can’t get past a specific conflict, seek the help of a counselor. Fighting isn’t healthy, but conflict isn’t always bad. In fact, it can be a tool for strengthening relationships. When conflict is handled correctly, two people share their hearts with each other, trying to listen and be heard while connecting on a deep level. When you deal with conflict in a caring and positive way, the result can be a deeper relationship and greater intimacy.
“In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).
God knew that we’d have anger and conflict in our relationships. But anger isn’t a sin as long as we seek to resolve the conflict.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
Instead of fighting, are you doing your part to reconcile and restore your relationship with your mate?
*This excerpt comes from the larger article, “Marriage and Conflict: Turning Disagreement into Growth” from the publication, Focus on Marriage