Common Issues In Every Marriage; Resolving Conflict

Last month we celebrated our 34th anniversary. I wish I could say that after 34 years we had arrived at “marital bliss,” but I can’t. What I can say is that the lessons I have learned in the last 34 years could not have been learned in any other way. I have realized that God allows us to be in relationships that are sometimes “irritating” to sharpen and refine us. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Picture iron sharpening iron; sparks fly as the two pieces of metal collide, but it is only through the collision and the heat that the sharpening takes place.

Too many of us grow up believing the ending to most fairy tales, “They got married and lived happily ever after.” But most of us who have been married for a while have probably been disappointed that it really isn’t that easy, so what do we do when the sparks of conflict fly? And trust me, they will! Here are some tips for how to handle conflict in marriage – some of them that I have learned in 34 years, and some that I’m still trying to master!

  • Face your fear of confrontation. I hate confrontation, but my husband loves to get things resolved. I learned pretty early in our marriage that our fights could last 5 minutes or 5 hours, and it all depended on me. If I tried to avoid confrontation my husband would keep going until the situation was addressed. If I got in there and “fought it out” the confrontation was usually over in 5 minutes!
  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. Say, “Could you please put your dishes in the dishwasher?” not, “You’re such a slob!”
  • Stay on topic. Our fights in marriage usually follow the same themes. Be careful not to bring up past hurts or failures, even if they are similar to what is frustrating you right now.
  • Be assertive (and respectful). Assertiveness is found in the balance between passive and aggressive. Aggressive says, “I only care about me, so I’m going to walk all over you and if you don’t like it, too bad.” Passive says, “I only care about you, so you can walk all over me and I won’t say anything.” Assertive says, “I care about you, AND I care about me, so I won’t do anything to intentionally hurt you, but I also won’t let you do anything to intentionally hurt me.”
  • Really listen to your spouse. Most of us know what we are trying to say, and sometimes it just doesn’t come out right. Our spouses are no different. There are times when my husband says something that I perceive as mean. I have to really listen to what he is trying to say, and sometimes I tell him, “If you just said what I think you said, then that was hurtful.” This gives him the opportunity to restate what he meant, not what I heard!

Living happily ever after takes a lot of work, but it is worth the effort!