In last week’s blog post, we discussed five reasons why you shouldn’t wait to resolve a conflict with your spouse. It’s vital to build a relationship based on open communication and trust; allowing conflicts to go on for long periods of time damages both.
The good news is, there are many useful strategies and tools available that can help you and your spouse constructively resolve conflict. In our book, The Good Fight, we lay out some ground rules in chapter 5, “Rules for Fight Club”. Today, we want to share a quick overview of these core rules to give you a starting point for resolving conflict in your marriage.
If we have to fight with our spouses from time to time, the best way to do that is to establish a win-win scenario from the start. Being willing to collaborate with one another through an unpleasant process like a disagreement will set you up for success in the long run. There’s nothing better than resolving a conflict that ends with both of you feeling like you gained something.
To get started cultivating cooperation, you can:
- Share positive thoughts or observations you’ve had about your spouse this week, but didn’t verbalize to them. Set aside about ten minutes every week to sit together and share these gratitudes with one another. You’ll be surprised how quickly the tension in your marriage unravels.
- Rate the depth of your disagreement. You can use our free conflict card to evaluate yours. Giving your conflict a rating can help you and your spouse keep the issue in perspective, as it relates to each of you–and it may help you reach a resolution faster.
- Agree to disagree when you need to. Sometimes spouses are dealing with personality differences that need to be actively managed, rather than conflicts that can be resolved. When this is the case, you both might have to settle on the fact that you don’t see eye-to-eye.
2. Take Ownership
It’s important for each of you to own your part of the conflict when you’re working toward a resolution. Criticism, blaming, and shaming are destructive and immature ways of handling conflict. On the other hand, taking responsibility for your part gives you the opportunity to resolve an issue without adding insult to injury.
When you’ve hurt your spouse, say you’re sorry–and mean it. Apologizing sincerely can speed up the healing process after a conflict, and may even help undo the negative effects of some actions. Owning up to how you might have hurt your spouse will pay dividends toward healing past hurts and reestablishing trust moving forward.
3. Respect One Another
Being respectful of one another, especially during conflict, will help you to avoid worsening a problem in your relationship. To cultivate respect, it’s important to:
- Avoid being cruel to one another. Cruelty is a manifestation of contempt, which can develop when a conflict has gone unresolved for a long time. Respect and cruelty absolutely cannot coexist. Instead, show kindness and appreciation for one another.
- Take a time-out if you need to. Taking a time-out in a conflict can help you both calm down and gain much-needed perspective on the disagreement.
4. Cultivate Empathy
Empathy, or walking in one another’s shoes, is a key to building and maintaining lifelong love. When we try to see conflicts through our spouse’s eyes, we’re more likely to reach a peaceful resolution much faster.
To cultivate empathy for each other:
- Read your spouse’s mind. What we mean by this is, try to be perceptive of what’s on their mind. Rather than drawing your own conclusions, though, treat this as a collaborative exercise. Initiate the conversation by saying, “I’d like to read your mind.” Then, gently ask your spouse about what you think you’ve perceived. For example, “I think, even though you’re willing to move for my job offer, you would really prefer to stay here. Maybe you’re afraid of holding me back or disappointing me. Am I right?” This invites a healthy exchange rather, unlike making assumptions.
- Pray together and for one another. Praying for your spouse opens your heart to your spouse’s perspective and helps to cultivate empathy.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into healthy conflict resolution, The Good Fight is a comprehensive guide that has helped thousands of couples learn to overcome problems in a constructive way. Click here to grab your copy!
Do you and your spouse have healthy conflict resolution skills that work for you? Share your tips in the comments!