When you’re in a conflict, you must communicate openly and honestly. Failure to share your feelings and talk through your differences will stifle any efforts to clear the air and restore intimacy. Here are a few helpful things you can do to handle your inevitable conflicts and learn to fight fair:
- Choose an appropriate time and setting. Do you and your spouse really need to solve an issue moments before guests arrive for a dinner party? Select a time and place that minimize distractions, guarantee privacy from children, and won’t make you tense right before an event.
- Ask permission to address the conflict. Make sure your spouse is ready to face the issue before you bring it up. For example, “Are you ready to talk about our disagreement over how to discipline the children?” or “I’m ready to confront our money problems. Are you?”
- Avoid the silent treatment. Sometimes—especially when you’re angry—you might clam up and give the silent treatment, thinking that the silence will communicate your perspective. Don’t mistake silence for communication. Silence can be a sign that the problems in the marriage are serious. A husband might initially feel relief that his wife has stopped nagging, but her silence may, instead, be a signal that she is emotionally withdrawing. Both husbands and wives can feel rejected and confused by their spouses’ silence. It’s very important to reestablish communication. First of all, even if you don’t feel very loving, reassure your spouse of your love. The goal is to open communication, not play games.
- Agree on a plan for handling conflicts. In a peaceful moment, talk with your spouse about how you will handle conflict when it arises. Is it important to you to avoid shouting matches with your spouse? Can you agree together to do your best to avoid loud disagreements? How about agreeing on a timetable for resolving conflicts—that you will resolve any given conflict within a week? Are you open to seeking help from a counselor, a pastor, or a godly trusted friend to settle the most difficult conflicts? Discuss this with your spouse before the conflicts hit. When conflict does occur, you may choose to set up two folding chairs in a neutral setting where you will discuss the problem. After the conflict is resolved and you have sought each other’s heart and perspective, fold the chairs up and put them back in the closet. Many couples report this tends to give them an increased sense of boundary around these difficult discussions.
- Pray. Prayer makes a positive impact on the resolution of conflict. By praying, two people on opposite sides of an issue welcome into the debate a third person: Jesus. Bringing Jesus into the debate means deciding together to play by His rules. Prayer also softens your heart so that you will be sensitive to the hurt in your spouse.
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