I know of no couple, who, on their wedding day, planned to have a troubled marriage. One of the most difficult things to do in life is to commit to living with another person for as long as you both shall live.
As September draws to a close and the fall season kicks off, take some time to invest in your marriage. September is Marriage Health Month. I know of no couple, who, on their wedding day, planned to have a troubled marriage. One of the most difficult things to do in life is to commit to living with another person for as long as you both shall live.
Whether you’ve been married five days or fifteen years, you’ve had disagreements with your spouse. Having a disagreement is not the issue; the true issue is whether the disagreements have been resolved. Conflict occurs when two people have a difference of opinion that has not been resolved. Once the reality of everyday living catches up with you, sometimes it’s hard to work through those conflicts.
In the Focus on the Family booklet, "Marriage and Conflict, Turning Disagreement into Growth," they have 10 suggestions for resolving conflict.
- 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.
- 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.” Avoid “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.
- 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.
Kristi Hodson is a teacher at Carthage Junior High School in Carthage, Mo. She writes a weekly column for the Carthage Press.