Life is a challenge. Married life is a big challenge. A man and a woman come together with lofty and noble intents. Surrounded by love they make long term commitments and set off on a journey of unity. For most, all goes very well, at least for the first several weeks. Then something doesn’t go as planned. Trouble brews and boils over into an argument. Suddenly a young couple is fighting. Now the true level of commitment is discovered. Some will run screaming from the marriage while others will stay and resolve the dispute.
Oddly, commitment in marriage really doesn’t mean anything until there is conflict. When things are good, no one wants to leave. Only when issues arise do people begin to think of leaving. Some have suggested that the key to a long marriage is the ability to resolve disputes effectively. Here are some suggestions.
Commit. Words of commitment spoken before a minister and witnesses in a ceremony mean little if actions are not present to back them up. Resolve now to stick with your spouse for life. Do not threaten to leave. Do not run home to your parents. Do not run to your buddy’s couch. Stay and make it work.
Be Fair. In any dispute people look at the facts differently. Your spouse sees things differently than you do. To be successful you must understand the problem from all perspectives. It is wrong to deliberately misstate your spouse’s actions, words or feelings. You may “win” the argument but loose far more. Using emotions to sway the argument is equally wrong.
Timing. There is a time for everything – even for arguing. Choose a time that is right and resolution will follow. Choose the wrong time and the problem will grow. Arguments are best handled privately, away from the children and away from friends. A marital discussion is not a spectator sport.Conflicts are best handled when time is not an issue. Having a discussion as one spouse is headed out the door or over the phone when one is at work, is almost always unproductive. Set a time. Turn off the TV. Find a private place and talk.
Talk. Some people are silent warriors. When trouble comes their solution is silence. Some may go days with little significant conversation. They seem to like to “stew” or to let their anger “ferment” until it is an explosive batch of madness. People used to say that you should never go to bed angry. That’s probably good advice. Generally, the quicker the problem is dealt with, the better. An exception might be if tempers are really flaring. In that case, a quick breather allows for more controlled discussion.
Listen. Listening may be the biggest hurdle couples face. When an argument arises both are filled with anger and feel pressed to get their thoughts into the open. If we are not careful, we completely miss what our wife or husband is really saying. Listening means more than just not talking. Listening involves dedicating the mind to hear every word and every nuance. It means seeking not just to hear but to understand.
Restate. During your discussions both sides should frequently stop and restate what the other has just said. For example, after listening carefully one spouse might say, “So what I am hearing is that you feel neglected when I go out with my buddies on the weekend?” This restatement requires that you first listen and then reform the idea in your own mind. It also keeps the discussion on track and helps prevent misunderstanding. In this example we can see that problem is not that he has his own friends. The problem is that in his wife’s eyes he gives too much time to them which he takes from her.
Compromise. Only babies think they can have everything their way. Life is all about making compromises. We do it at school, at work, in traffic, in stores. We accept something a bit less than we want so that we can enjoy a greater good. Marriage is the same. While there are some exceptions to compromise, it is a powerful tool for ending an argument.
This is only a small listing of some techniques for resolving disputes in marriage. Put them to work and you will find greater peace in a very long relationship.