Conflict is a normal part of every marriage but it’s important to learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way that benefits both partners. Here are 8 proven strategies to help you and your spouse successfully solve conflicts leading to a better, stronger marriage.
Discuss Issues as They Come Up
There is no benefit in allowing conflicts to stack up until you have a long list of grievances to discuss with your partner. Not only will this be overwhelming for them, but it’s not likely that you will be able to resolve multiple issues in one sitting.
Why do we put off these conversations? Sometimes, we procrastinate in hopes of waiting for that perfect moment to engage with our spouse when they’re in a good mood. Others of us may have an experience from our past that has caused us to become conflict avoidant so we’d rather run from a discussion than face an issue head on.
However, the reality is there is no perfect time to have a serious discussion with your partner, and studies show that resolving conflict in a healthy manner can build connection and increase intimacy with your spouse.
Resolving conflict in a marriage, sooner than later, will have positive outcomes for both partners. It will keep small issues from growing into bigger resentments that might create a barrier to intimacy in the future and it will create opportunities for deep connection and building trust.
Talk Openly and Honestly
Effective communication is essential for learning how to resolve conflict in marriage. Avoid making assumptions about what your spouse may be thinking and instead, talk openly and honestly about what you have observed and how you are feeling. Ask direct questions, such as “How do you feel about this?” or “What would help make this situation better?” Also, be aware of your tone when speaking to each other and try to focus on understanding each other’s feelings rather than defending your own opinion at all costs.
Practice Good Listening Skills
Listening to each other and understanding the feelings behind the words is a vital part of resolving conflicts in marriage. You can show your partner that you’re genuinely interested by making eye contact and asking open-ended questions for clarity. Oh, and never interrupt them while they are talking.
Also, don’t just listen to what they say, “listen” to what they do, too. Make note of any non-verbal cues that give away any additional information as to how your partner is feeling.
Although it takes time to cultivate them, good listening skills are imperative for every aspect of marriage, and in fact, all relationships. And if you are going to apply the next strategy, validation, you’ll need to be a great listener.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” ~Epictetus, Greek Philosopher
Acknowledge and Validate Your Spouse’s Feelings
Acknowledging and validating your spouse’s feelings will go a long way towards helping you resolve conflicts in marriage. You already know your perspective, so when you listen to your spouse, do it for the purpose of understanding theirs. Once your spouse feels that their opinion matters to you, they are less likely to get defensive and cause the discussion to escalate in intensity.
To be clear, validation does not necessarily mean that you agree with your partner. It means that you accept that you and your spouse live life together as a couple but as individuals, you experience life differently…and that’s ok!
Taking this position in marriage will not only set you up to resolve conflict successfully but like many of the strategies in this post, it will create an environment where you can develop a closer relationship with your partner.Purchase the Catholic Pre-Cana Course
Ask Good Questions
Asking good questions is a simple yet powerful way to understand each other’s perspective and build empathy. Rather than assuming you know your partner’s viewpoint or jumping straight into problem-solving, focus on understanding their point of view. Be curious about your partner. Ask open-ended questions that invite explanation, such as “Can you tell me more about how you feel?” or “What kind of support do you need from me?” Questions like these can help foster mutual understanding and respect, allowing couples to productively move forward in resolving conflict.
Use “I” Statements Instead of “You” Statements
It’s easy to jump to conclusions and assign blame during a conflict, but this will likely make the situation worse. When working to resolve a conflict, be sure to focus on how the issue makes you feel rather than attacking your spouse for something they did. The latter will likely cause them to become defensive.
Avoid using statements like: “You are so unreliable. I can’t trust you do to anything that you say you will! Instead, try using an “I” statement, such as “I feel like you don’t love or value me when you say you are going to do something but don’t follow through.” This approach can help both of you stay focused on finding a solution instead of pointing fingers.
Find Compromises or Negotiate Solutions
When discussing an issue, it’s important to separate ‘who is right and wrong’ from ‘what is the best way to resolve the conflict’. In marriage, you are a team so always be looking for solutions that will make life better for BOTH of you. Find mutually beneficial solutions where everyone gets at least some of what they need. Love demands, not only greater understanding, but also, a desire to make life better, not just for yourself, but for your partner, too.
“Marriage is about compromise; it’s about doing something for the other person, even when you don’t want to.” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding
Take a Break When Needed
It’s not always possible to resolve a conflict in a single conversation, so don’t be afraid to take a break if the conversation becomes too heated. Taking some time apart can give you both a chance to cool off and reflect on the conflict without resuming hostilities. Establish ground rules, such as not talking about the issue until both of you are in a better state of mind. When ready, come together again and start your discussion using the 7 strategies that we discussed above.
Each Marriage Preparation course at Onlinemarriagepreparation.com includes a chapter that guides you through healthy Conflict Resolution. The complete course is made up of 10 guided conversations that are easy and fun to complete from your own home. Register for one of our three courses today!