marriage, Uncategorized

6 tools for navigating marital conflict

In fact, if your marriage is completely void of conflict — there is probably something wrong. There should be conflict in every marriage. When handled properly, healthy amounts of conflict presents a marriage with opportunities to grow, mature, and strengthen.”

I love my husband. I love him with my whole heart, and he is my very best friend. I could never imagine my life without him in it. That’s essentially why I married the guy, right?

But sometimes he drives me nuts. BONKERS. Sometimes he can crawl right under my skin and pitch a tent there. And if I am being completely honest with you — I do exactly the same thing to him.

We are not always on the same page and often fall out of sync with one another. Some days we fail to effectively communicate and can feel a rift forming between us.

This doesn’t happen because we are wrong for each other. Or because we have fallen out of love with one another. It isn’t even some indication that we are failing as a couple.

This is normal. This is marriage, y’all.

In fact, if your marriage is completely void of conflict — there is probably something wrong. There should be conflict in every marriage. When handled properly, healthy amounts of conflict presents a marriage with opportunities to grow, mature, and strengthen.

In order for conflict to be proactive and positive — you first need to have some tools in your marriage belt that will help promote healthy conflict resolution.

I am referring to them as “tools” because they are similar to the tools you would find in a toolbox. If you know how to use them correctly, they can be incredibly useful to you — especially when you are working on a project that calls for one of those tools to be put to good use!

However, tools can also be misused. And when these tools are misused in a harmful way, they can act more like weapons — and pulling a weapon out during conflict with your spouse will not promote growth in your marriage.

Below I will share with you six tools you can use when navigating conflict in your marriage.

1. Roll up the rug

When conflict arises for some people, their gut reaction is to avoid it. Conflict makes them uncomfortable, so they simply sweep whatever it is under the rug as quickly as they can and go on their merry way.

Although avoiding conflict may seem easier — no conflict, no problems, right? — this is actually not a healthy way to approach conflict. Especially in a marriage.

Eventually that rug in your marriage — the one concealing the many conflicts that have arisen — is going to get moved, lifted, and shaken out. And if you’ve been stockpiling conflict under there — well, your marriage is going to face even bigger issues on cleaning day.

Instead of working through those matters one at a time — and at the appropriate time — your marriage is going to be bombarded with issues that: (1) your spouse may not even be aware ever existed; (2) are no longer relevant, but continue to linger because they caused you hurt; and (3) are more difficult to deal with now than they would have been when they originated.

Sweeping conflict under the rug may be advantageous in the short-run, but this practice will most definitely cause a marriage to have more problems in the long-run. So when it is tempting to lift the rug and sweep something under to maintain harmony in your relationship — don’t!

Instead, roll up the rug completely.

Rolling up the rug will keep you from using it at all. Not only will doing so keep you from sweeping the entire conflict under the rug, but it will also keep you from partially sweeping stuff under there — like your true emotions about a situation.

So the next time conflict arises in your marriage — roll it up, sista! Forget the rug and prepare to deal with whatever is coming at you and your spouse head on.

2. Drop your weapons

So we talked about how some people respond to conflict by running in the other direction and avoiding it completely — “the sweepers.” Well, there is another group of people out there who do the opposite. We will call us the “loaders.”

Why am I referring to us as loaders? (Hello, fellow loaders — I am one of you through and through). Because as soon as we get a whiff of conflict, we are readying our ammunition and loading our weapons. We are preparing to ride into battle guns-a-blazing.

Well just like the sweepers, us loaders are also approaching conflict in an unhealthy manner. Although we are ready to engage in marital conflict — we go about it all wrong. We view conflict as a battle to be won over our spouse. Instead of preparing to go into battle alongside our spouse, we have already placed our spouse on the front of enemy lines.

So when conflict arises for us loaders, we need to drop our weapons. We must resist the temptation to suit up for battle and instead devise an action plan on how to appropriately approach the situation from the same side as our spouse.

3. Bat for the same team

This brings us right into tool #3 — bat for the same team! As I mentioned in the previous section, for some of us conflict can feel like a battle between us and our spouse. This is especially true when the conflict at hand directly involves the words, actions, or inactions of someone in the relationship.

But this is not a healthy mentality in marital conflict. When conflict arises in a marriage, it should be seen as a hurdle for both you and your spouse to clear together. Try to remember that no matter what the conflict is about, you and your spouse are on the same team.

You are not on the “you” team, and they are not on the “them” team. Both of you are on the “we” team. You are not batting for your own personal victories, but for the victory of your marriage.

Keep this in mind the next time conflict arises. Instead of reflecting on what you want and what you think would be the best resolution, focus on what would best benefit the marriage as a whole. You will most likely have to do some compromising on your end — but remember, so will your spouse!

So play for the team on the front of your jerseys, “The (Enter Last Name Here) Family,” and forget about the one on the back!

4. Advocate for your spouse

You may have been reading the previous section and thinking to yourself:

how can I possibly bat for the same team as my spouse when he is being unreasonable and impossible?”

or

“how am I supposed to consider this person my teammate when I don’t even want to be in the same room as him right now?”

Trust me, girl — we have all been there! It is hard to see your spouse as your teammate when all you can think about is something he said or did (or didn’t do). It feels impossible to consider him your partner when all you feel is hurt, misunderstood, and disappointed.

The next time you’re struggling with viewing your spouse as your teammate and batting for the same team, I want you to try something.

Instead of focusing your thoughts on what your spouse has done or said and how he has made you feel — advocate for him. Literally construct an argument for him in your head.

Now, I am not saying make excuses for whatever has been done. I am also not telling you to sweep how you’re feeling under the rug. What I am essentially asking you to do is give his intentions the benefit of the doubt and show him grace.

Take a step back and try to see things from his point of view.

Even if what he said or did created a negative result, were his intentions negative? Was he coming from a place of love or a place of anger? Could you have put words into his mouth? Or assigned a false meaning to the words he used? Is it possible you interpreted his actions solely based on your emotions in that moment?

Advocating for your spouse to yourself will help you show grace in the moment.

Imagine with me for a moment. f your teammate on a sports team attempted to pass you the ball, but instead accidentally kicked the ball out of bounds because they lost their footing, would you automatically assume they were trying to sabotage you as a teammate or throw the game? Probably not.

So don’t do this to your spouse when in conflict. Give him the benefit of the doubt when he makes a mistake. Do your best to step into his shoes and see the conflict from his point of view. It will help you move away from a “you vs. them” mentality when addressing conflict.

(Again, I am in no way encouraging you to excuse behavior that is abusive or manipulative. I think we can all agree that these harmful behaviors are never carried out with “good” intentions.)

5. Pause, Refresh, and Revisit

Sometimes it is best to let the heat of the moment die out before you dive into conflict resolution with your spouse. Especially if you are anything like I am during conflict and often allow emotions to get the best of you (yes, I am an enneagram type four).

Now, hear me out — this does not mean you should storm away angrily and slam the door while your spouse is speaking. Instead, communicate to your spouse that you need a little while to pause and refresh before discussing the matter at hand.

And then do just that.

Take some time to let your emotions simmer. Think of it as hitting the refresh button on your internet browser. Use this “pause” to bring yourself back to emotional equilibrium the best you can.

This is not an easy thing to do — especially if the conflict you’re facing is something especially touchy or you have had your feelings hurt by your spouse.

But do not use this “pause” to feed into your emotions or work on a list of hurtful things to say to your spouse when you revisit the situation later. Try to detach from your current emotions as best as you can. Take a walk, listen to a podcast, or read a book if that will help keep your mind from running amok during this time.

Remember: it is never a good idea to make big decisions while feeling big emotions.

It’s kind of like going grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You might grab a bunch of stuff you don’t actually need just because you’re hungry in the moment. So if decision making is a part of your conflict resolution (and it almost always is), let those emotions go and then talk it out!

When you feel calm, ask your spouse to revisit the situation with you. And remember to check in with him, too. Is he in a good mental place to resolve conflict? If not, give him some more time to pause and refresh if he needs it!

6. Keep love at the forefront

Lastly, let love ground you.

It is never a bad idea to start conflict resolution off with, “I love you.” It is easy to feel less loving and less love-able during conflict. Let your spouse know that your love for them is still there even when you’re in conflict. And remind yourself that even when you’re at odds with your spouse, their love for you is still there, too!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

What are some other ways you and your significant other handle conflict in a healthy manner? Or what are some unhealthy habits you have that you’re trying to shake?

Let us know below in the comments!

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