Marriage: Fighting Fair
My husband and I have been married for twenty-one years and we have learned that conflict is inevitable. When we first navigated conflict, it was quite messy because one of us had a tendency to “shut down” and one of us had a tendency to “escalate”. We have learned some tools along the way, but it can still be messy because… sometimes we want to win, sometimes we want to be right, and sometimes we want to hurt back.
Tools for Conflict:
1. We reassure one another often that we are committed to making the marriage work. We are both committed and willing to do the hard work. We refuse to use the “d” word. (divorce) And if we allowed this word to fly around, it would make us feel unsure and uncertain of our future together.
2. We have to remind ourselves often that we are not the enemy but we have an Enemy who is against us. When conflict arises, our Enemy will start reminding us of every negative trait of our spouse. And when we refuse to listen to the negatives, we are fighting for our marriage.
3. We try to resolve conflict quickly and not let days pass us by. However, if a person has a tendency to shut down, they may need a couple of hours to process and can say “Hey, can we revisit this in a couple of hours?” If a person has a tendency to escalate, they need to refrain from trying to “force” the conversation and be patient.
4. We try to remember the goal is for both us to both feel safe so we can get to dialogue. Things that can make us feel “unsafe”: glaring looks, harsh tones, hurtful words, name-calling, staring each other down or stomping out of the room. And when we refuse to use these tactics, we will create a safe space.
5. We try to listen to one another and not get defensive. Good grief. Who am I kidding? This can be so hard. When we receive feedback from our spouse, we can move things forward by saying “I hear what you are saying, and I will think about it and get back to you.”
6. When we collide and things “blow up” and we throw the guidelines out of the window, we attempt to calm down, return to gentleness and come together again.
God, give us tender hearts towards one another, always. In conflict, help us to humble ourselves quickly and to lay our pride aside. And may we build a marriage that brings glory to You. Amen.