In Connecting with Your Partner, Differences, Featured, Thoughts from Bob, Time to Make Your Marriage Dance

This month, we are excited to re-run one of our very popular series, which gives helpful tips for resolving conflict. Is there a problem that you and your spouse keep fighting about? How do you find a solution both you and your spouse can live with? In our 5-part series, How To Resolve Conflicts In Your Marriage, we’ll give you helpful tools to resolve disagreements in a way that brings harmony.

A Mediator Gives 5 Steps For Resolving
Conflicts In Your Marriage

Part 1: Be Precise in Identifying the Problem

Oh, no! Here comes that problem that you and your spouse keep fighting about. You could ignore it and decide to live with it. You could fight about it again, Or, you could resolve it.

How do you resolve conflicts in marriage?

Here are five steps to dealing with conflict.

  1. Be precise in identifying the problem.
  2. Calm the emotions.
  3. Listen carefully and empathetically.
  4. Make proposals that could solve the problem.
  5. Work to keep the relationship intact.

I’ll look at one step each week for the next five weeks. Today we start with identifying the problem.

It is important to know whether you have a dispute or merely a misunderstanding. We often joke at our house, “With one attorney and one English teacher, you’d think we could communicate.” We don’t always. There are plenty of misunderstandings.

“I’m ready to leave when you are.”
(Five minutes later): “Are you ready yet? I’ve been waiting for you.”
“No, you haven’t. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“If you’re waiting for me, why are you still running around doing things?”
“I am waiting for you. I just wanted to make use of the time.”

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Did we both have the same goal of leaving the house? Yes. So, what it meant to be ready? Yes.

If you discover there was a communication failure—make it clear. Fix it!

On the other hand, you may have an actual disagreement. Every week, Roxann buys a rotisserie chicken at Costco. She thinks this should feed us for two dinners plus some snacks for me. My “snacks” use up more of the chicken than she thinks they should. She claims that when she goes to make dinner, the meat is gone! This has caused some unhappiness and frustration and the problem has gone on for too long. What should we do?

First, be willing to address the problem. Seventy percent of people prefer to avoid the conflict by not saying anything. Roxann and I are in that category. But not saying anything doesn’t solve the problem. So, you must be willing—lovingly and in the interest of marital harmony—to bring it up.

Second, state the problem precisely. Say it in one sentence if you can, but make sure you are not beating around the bush. Tell the truth in love. Roxann might say, “I am frustrated in planning our dinners for the week because I don’t know whether there will be enough chicken left.” I might say, “I am frustrated when I am looking for a healthy snack because I don’t know whether or not the chicken is off limits.” Both statements are precise, don’t make accusations, and put the issue out in the open where it can be dealt with.

There are other steps that can be taken to resolve conflicts, but for this week, start by ensuring that you have a dispute and not merely a misunderstanding. If you have a dispute, try to clearly summarize the problem in one sentence without blaming anybody.

This article was originally published on our blog on January 11, 2018.

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