Many small disagreements in marriage turn into major arguments because couples lack the ability or the willingness to resolve conflict in its early stages.
It is more difficult to apply the rules of conflict resolution in marriage because you tend to have higher expectations for your spouse and because it is easy to becoming resentful when the person whom you deeply trust lets you down. As difficult as it may seem to apply these basic rules, it is not impossible.
First, you must put aside your personal desire to win the argument, and make the moral choice to do what is right and work toward resolving the problem between you. Below is a process for dealing with an argument or a disagreement in marriage after you have determined to work towards solving the problem.
•Recognize that there is a disagreement between the two of you, and express your desire to find a solution to the problem. Don’t ignore a problem because you don’t want to admit a failure or a problem in your marriage.
•You and your spouse are only human and are as prone to making mistakes in your personal lives and in your marriage as anyone else is. Avoid the temptation to think you are better than others in this area.
•Humbly apologize for any wrongdoing on your part. Even if you believe your part of the problem is very small compared to your spouse’s problem, it will
be very difficult to get your spouse to admit a problem when he or she believes you are not willing to recognize your own failures.
•Realize that the way you perceive your problem is most likely quite different from the way your spouse perceives the situation. To resolve the problem, you must be willing to show your desire to find a solution by admitting you may have been wrong as well.
•State what you believe to be the problem as objectively as you can. Don’t attack your spouse and don’t judge his or her motives. Focus on the actions that caused your disagreement. Once you have agreed on a way to resolve wrong actions, you can bring up the possibility of wrong motives being at the root of the problem.
•It is best, however, to avoid accusing your spouse of having the wrong motives, even if you believe this is the case. You cannot see into a person’s heart, and they cannot see into yours. Accusations only breed more resentment and an unwillingness to open up in a discussion.
•Be kind and respectful in your choice of words. Your spouse is worthy of the highest level of respect because of the commitment that you made to one another. If you or your spouse is too angry to discuss the problem calmly and objectively with one another, suggest you each take some time to think, and then resume the discussion at a set time and perhaps in a different place.
•Listen to your spouse’s side of the story, and encourage your spouse to express his or her complete perception of the problem. Don’t interrupt during this time but do show that you are genuinely trying to understand his or her side of the argument.
•Offer several solutions to the problem. This may seem difficult but is usually possible if you are willing to put aside some of your preferences in the matter and be willing to accept a compromise. If a compromise is not possible, then do your best to present your solution in terms that are not offensive to your spouse. Show your concern for his or her goals and needs, and commit to working out a way to meet these.
•As you discuss your problem, you should always check your responses and attitude to make sure you are not stubbornly refusing to accept a reasonable solution. Be willing to be the peacemaker.
•Remember, it takes more strength to control yourself than it does to control another person. Being willing to give in when it is obvious that you are wrong is a great way to practice the art of humility and self-control.
•Always end your discussion on a good note. Be willing to let go of your anger and forgive. Bitterness and resentment will not only hurt your relationship,it will ruin you as a person and hinder your ability to enjoy life. At all costs, choose to let your love for your spouse be stronger than the disagreement you have had.
Note: These guidelines apply to situations that are not highly abusive. If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to seek additional counsel before you confront a problem with your spouse. If you are the abuser, get help immediately. You are not in control of your emotions and your anger will cause you to hurt your spouse in ways that you never imagined. If you are not willing to confront your problem, chances are the law will.