Cooling The Fires of Marital Conflict
It’s impossible and unrealistic for two imperfect people to have a “perfect” relationship.
Perfect relationships are myths.
People in love will disagree, get mad, fight, argue, and disturb each other’s peace from time to time.
If you want a conflict-free life where your emotional and mental peace is never disrupted, you might consider moving to a deserted island.
Some couples say they never fight. If that’s the case, chances are someone is keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves.
Sometimes it’s the silly, unexpected disagreement that strikes the match that lights the fuse that makes the dynamite go, “BOOM!”
How To Reduce Conflict
Step one: Anticipate Battles.
To reduce conflict in your marriage, anticipate disagreements by learning (and remembering for future reference) what triggers them.
What are your partner’s hot buttons?
What fears take them back to a dark place?
What are some sensitive topics?
Your anticipation and approach matter; you’re either throwing gas on the flames or cooling the fire. It’s not so much about winning a “fight” (selfishness; ego) as it is about deepening the relationship (selflessness; love).
We’re not talking about avoidance. Avoiding issues and sacrificing your happiness to keep the peace is a recipe for relational misery.
We’re talking about anticipating what might trigger conflict so you can share your thoughts and feelings wisely, with kindness, grace, and patience to minimize escalation when possible.
Step two: Use a Cease-fire.
Have a “cease-fire” agreement when things are getting out of control if it seems the situation is only going from bad to worse, and then revisit the issue when you’ve both had a chance to calm down. However, sometimes staying in the heat of the moment and working things out is the very thing that leads to a breakthrough.
If the argument is leading to a breakdown, take a timeout. If it’s leading to a breakthrough, then maybe stick with it; couples have success with both approaches.
Regardless, paying close attention to what your partner is saying, and demonstrating that you truly understand where they’re coming from is HUGE to soothing the conflict and paving the way for a resolution.
A stubborn refusal to understand and consider your partner’s point of view is selfish – why let your ego drive your marriage over the cliff?
As soon as you recognize and become aware that either one of you is becoming overly self-defensive, it’s time to put a little space between you and the argument by doing your best to soften the exchange and evaluate what each other is saying.
Step Three: Acknowledge That You Have Differences of Perspective.
Just because you share similar values, standards, and beliefs doesn’t mean you’ll always see eye-to-eye.
You didn’t marry a clone.
Besides, having different opinions and points of view is healthy and interesting and should be encouraged.
Acknowledge up front that there will be times when you’re going to disagree. Take it a step further by playfully acknowledging that there will be times when you’ll drive each other crazy! It’s going to happen!
Just please don’t coerce, control, manipulate your partner, or make demands or ultimatums whatever you do. That’s being a dictator, not a good spouse.
Love doesn’t force. It doesn’t seek to transform another person into a robot. If God doesn’t do it, neither should we.
If boundaries and standards are crossed and compromised, find a marriage counselor to navigate your differences before they become irreconcilable.
But in general, consider this ancient insight from James 4:1-2, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (NIV.)
Pride, arrogance, superiority, insecurity, fear, self-importance, covetousness, and egocentrism are some of the barriers that will keep you and your spouse from living and enjoying your lives fully.
A healthy marriage learns to manage those negative character deficiencies. Sometimes it takes individual counseling to heal deep-seated hurts and issues.
Don’t demand respect; earn іt with your behavior. Demonstrate the depth of your love through selfless action.
So much marital conflict results from one spouse forcing the other to believe and behave like they want them to.
Don’t force your spouse into your mold, or demand compliance.
Give them the freedom to live their life to the fullest.
Encourage and support their pursuit of happiness, whether it be through hobbies, interests, or friends.
Live and let live.
And if either you or your spouse feels that something outside of your marriage is a harmful influence on the relationship, discuss it because there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. When we say, “Live and let live,” we’re not consenting to selfishness or licentiousness.
Step Four: Don’t Exhume Past Hurts.
Stop bringing up the past.
Some people keep a running list of wrongs and mistakes.
Deal with the current issue; stay in the present. Don’t generalize and get historical with words like, “This is what you always do!” and then list everything they’ve done wrong from the last three years or longer.
Step Five: Compromise.
Strive for а win-win resolution. Dictators might get their way for a while, but it usually doesn’t work out so well for them in the end.
Work together to find solutions thаt make both оf уоu winners.
The “win-win” rule applies to leadership and management, business, foreign relations, and any area of life where a long-lasting, peaceful relationship is desired, including marriage!
The “win-win” approach builds mutual trust and support іn уоur relationship because you and your spouse will look out for each other’s happiness instead of just your own.
Finally, although reducing conflict within a marriage is an art, the most important “negotiation tactic” is patience. And not just any old kind of patience either, because certain types of patience are strained and irritated. We’re not talking about that kind of patience.
We’re talking about peace-seeking patience, patience that is loving, kind, forgiving, compassionate, and caring.
We’re talking about grace-filled patience, patience that understands and seeks to give the benefit of the doubt.
That kind of patience is the kind of patience that gives the “soft answer” that cools the fires of anger and keeps the embers of love kindled.
You and your partner will disagree and drive each other crazy throughout the life of your relationship; conflict is okay.
It’s how you will choose to “fight” that will either save or destroy your marriage.
So use these tips to cool conflict and enjoy ongoing peace in your relationship for years to come.