We like to think life is hunky-dory around Valentine’s Day, but really life is not all chocolates and roses. Trust me. I know. There have been years when I have gotten a card for Valentine’s Day. That’s it. A card. Yes, gift giving is definitely NOT my hubby’s love language. To his credit, he has served me by providing me with fresh produce from the garden, building me a water fountain, and switching out a load of laundry throughout the year BUT not necessarily on a specific day of the year.
So how did this girl who likes gifts respond to my husband’s actions or lack thereof? By withdrawing. The hurt and bitterness would well up in me until at last it would escalate to an all-out conflict. I wanted what my husband did not provide. It wasn’t fair that other wives were doted upon while my husband seemed to not care about me at all…well hardly at all. Sheesh. Even the card was only from the dollar store.
You see where this kind of attitude was going? Downhill. A negative interpretation would leave to withdrawal, invalidation, avoidance, and/or escalate to words of anger being shot back and forth between us. It was awful. It was lonely. It felt like I was living a lie.
So what do you do when conflict arises in marriage? How do you work through differing interests and interpretations? Let me be the first to tell you we haven’t got it all figured out yet, but we are definitely getting better. Last week, for my birthday, my hubby took the day off, took me out to eat at a restaurant that he knew I liked even though it wasn’t his favorite, and gave me some new wind chimes for my backyard escape. But this response wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took time. It took understanding. It took communication. It took listening.
That being said, here are 5 steps we have learned to help with conflict resolution in our marriage. Maybe they will help you like they have us.
5 Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage
- Pray. By yourself. Ask God to calm your heart, forgive your own wrong-doings, and be open to listening to your spouse’s point of view.
- Ask your spouse when is a good time to talk. Wait until then to manage the conflict in play. Wait.
- When meeting, agree on some simple ground rules: a) no interrupting when the other is speaking other than to ask a question of clarification b) stick to the issue c) when the speaker is done, the listener should summarize what is being said to make sure the understanding is clear. Goal: To understand each other even if you don’t necessarily agree.
- Once you have shared your sides of the issue one-by-one, work together to generate some options to resolve the conflict. While you will want some serious options, it’s also fun to come up with some outlandish options too so as to lighten the mood. For example, if the conflict is over who will do the dishes, maybe one possible solution could be to have the dog do the dishes. 😉 Unreasonable? Yes. An option? Yes. Worth lightening the mood? Yes.
- Once you have a list of possible solutions, work together to choose the option that is mutually agreeable and follow through. In summary? Make a contented compromise.
While this hasn’t solved all our problems, and we don’t necessarily take time to mentally calculate whether we have followed all of these steps in order, it has helped us to be more conscious about understanding the other’s point of view, and I hope these steps will help you and your spouse to do the same.