I know of couples who straight out go for the jugular when they fight with each other. Emotions escalate and so do they. Then there are those who are split: one wants to get to the bottom of things NOW and the other does everything they can to run the other direction. And finally, there are those couples in which neither party really wants to engage, so they both tend to put off dealing with conflict. Zerrin and I tend to fall more in this last camp. Here are some action steps to take regardless of how you deal with conflict:
Step #1: Consider Your Conflict Style
Why do you tend to deal with conflict the way you do? What good (or bad) examples have you learned from? These are very important questions to ask. They can lead to much personal insight. The more you clarify why, the more power you will have to change.
Note the affect of your conflict style. Be honest–does it work? Is it helpful either in the short run or long run? Does it bring growth or destruction to the relationship? Do you both feel closer or more distant as a result?
After a conflict is over, do you like yourself?
Does your spouse like how you handled the conflict?
Step #2: Consider What Could Change
If you could change the way you and your spouse interact when angry, what would you want it to look like?
What would you want it to sound like?
What would you want it to feel like?
Would you like the volume to come down?
Would you want there to be less reactivity in the dialogue?
How about the feeling of safety? Is it there? Does that need to improve?
Would you like your spouse to open up and share more? Do you know why he or she doesn’t?
Do you wish to feel heard and understood more?
Step #3: Discuss Your Answers As A Couple
One of the best places to start if you want to change the way in which you handle conflict as a couple, is to talk about how you handle conflict.
Pick a time when you are not in conflict and decide to make conflict resolving a topic of conversation.
Print off this blog and keep a copy in front of you.
Now simply go back and forth asking each other the questions I posed to you. And take your time. This may be one of the most important conversations you have had in a long time!
Just be sure that if YOU are asking the question, then YOU must do the listening too!
Do not start a conflict when talking about how you handle conflict!
Instead, learn from each other. You will be surprised how much you will learn if you just keep quiet when the other person is talking.
Be intrigued with what you hear. Listen and LEARN! (Tweet this!)
Step #4: Choose Two Areas To Work On
When you get through the list, vow together to work on this part of your relationship.
For starters, pick two areas to work on: the first is an area you want to see changed in you; the second area is something your spouse wants to see changed in you.
For me, I need to work harder at pressing though my fears that keep me silent. When I asked Zerrin what she would like from me, she said she would like me to process more of my thinking out-loud for her to hear. Humm…ok, I can work on that.
Envision six months from now what your relationship would be like if those changes were actually made.
Do you like it?
Ok, ask God for help and get to work. Take responsibility for the needed changes in YOU and be patient with your spouse while he/she does the same!
ONE LAST THING…will you help me?
My goal is to make this site as helpful to you as I can, and I need your help!
Comment below with any questions I can answer in a later blog OR insights to share that would help others. Thanks!