In Connecting with Your Partner, Featured, Series, 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 3: Learn To Really Listen

Why do we have disputes in our marriage? Isn’t it usually that you would like your spouse to do things your way? And, guess what! They would like you to do it their way. Merely repeating what you want again and again isn’t going to help. So, what do you do? In Part 1 of this series, we discovered you need to pinpoint the exact problem. In Part 2 we saw the value of calming the emotions. Now you are ready to address the problem. Step 3 involves listening—really listening. But how do you really listen?

Let’s look at a simple dispute. You and your spouse go out to dinner. You decide to split a dessert—but you must agree on a dessert.

Your spouse: Let’s get the giant chocolate brownie.
You: I’d rather get the vanilla ice cream sundae with strawberries.
Your spouse: I don’t like vanilla. Vanilla desserts aren’t even worth the calories.
You: We’ve split a chocolate dessert the last three times we’ve gone out. Can’t we have a little variety?

Here’s where the listening comes in. In both mediation and disputes with your spouse, you want to thoroughly understand. You want to listen with both your head and your heart. And you want to listen for two things: their position and their interest.

Listen For Position

Their position is what they want the ultimate agreement to be. In the example above, you want vanilla and your spouse wants chocolate. Those are the respective positions.

Listen For Interests

Now, go a step deeper and uncover the interests. What is driving the dispute for each of you? You may need to ask some questions to get to the root of the problem:

Some people feel attacked when you use a “why” question, so phrase it this way: “What is it about that that is so important to you?” Then, listen very carefully.

Your spouse: “I’ve been trying to watch how I spend my calories. I really don’t like vanilla, so I would opt not to have dessert at all rather than have vanilla.”

You: “I like variety. You always want chocolate and I give in. But now, I feel like you don’t care about my feelings and what I like.”

In this example, your spouse has an intellectual reason for wanting chocolate. But the second spouse (“You”) adds an emotional reason: I feel like you don’t care.

Usually, the fact that your spouse has cared enough to find out why this is important to you and listen attentively to your response, goes a long way toward making you feel better and diffuse the argument. It also creates a foundation for coming to an equitable agreement. We will look at that next week.

This article was originally published on our blog on January 25, 2018.

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