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.
We offer a link at the end to download this entire series as an e-book!
A Mediator Gives 5 Steps For Resolving Conflicts In Your Marriage
Part 5: Emphasize The Relationship
I remember one mediation. It was a dispute over an inheritance. Two brothers against their third brother. After a few hours, we arrived at a financial agreement all parties were willing to accept. The financial issue was resolved. The relationship issue was not. When you are at odds with your brother, it’s sad. In marriage, when you have an unresolved, serious disagreement, it begins eating away at the foundation of the marriage.
In any dispute, first pinpoint the exact issue. Second, make sure everyone’s emotions are calm. Nothing gets done when emotions are raging. Third, listen carefully for what your spouse wants and more importantly, why it is important to him or her. Fourth, begin proposing solutions that may satisfy both you and your spouse. You can find Parts 1 through 4 of this series on dealing with conflict in your marriage on our website at the links above.
The last point is this: Keeping the relationship is of paramount importance. The goal is not to win the argument, it’s to win your spouse.
There are five things that will help you do that.
Don’t give up quickly.
Keep trying to understand your spouse’s interests and keep making proposals that could satisfy both parties’ interests. In most situations, a little creativity can solve the disagreement and both parties can live with it.
You are different than your spouse.
That’s almost a given. Is it surprising that you see situations from different perspectives? Develop a sense of humor. If possible, instead of fighting, look at the disagreement as an opportunity for humor. Then start coming up with creative solutions. Don’t laugh at your spouse—laugh with them.
Watch your attitude.
Remain humble. Tell your spouse something of value they bring to the marriage. Keep affirming your love and that you want a deeper relationship with them.
Give it some time.
I acknowledge that sometimes a party comes to mediation unwilling to budge. Sometimes it helps to give them more time. I had one mediation where one party was unwilling to listen or make a proposal. We left the table with nothing accomplished. A brief time later, they went to another mediator. That same party was ready to settle and the agreement fell right into place. All that was necessary was time to get in a better frame of mind.
We all have our favorite strategies for trying to get our way. It may be necessary to gently call out your partner’s strategy.
“You are being stubborn on this point. What is it about this that is so important to you?” (This is also re-asking for their “interest.” See Part 3)
“Are you using anger to try to control me?”
“You seem to be withdrawing. Please don’t do that. I want a solution that feels good to you, too.” (This also affirms your love for them.)
“Are you trying to manipulate me?”
When they realize you know what strategy they’re using and that it is no longer working, they may change.
Last year a married couple came to me. They were separated. She felt he valued money more than he valued her. She felt the reason he wanted to get back together was that it would have cost him a fortune to divorce her. There were children involved. He said he loved his wife and his children. He was also very sincere about his faith and believed God did not want a divorce. Sadly, we left the mediation without a resolution. Recently, the phone rang. It was the husband. They had continued talking and making proposals even during the separation. He finally understood her underlying interests and they came up with a solution to restore their marriage.
Remember that all disagreements do not have to be won or lost. The goal is a mutually beneficial solution—one that satisfies the interests of both parties. Learn how to solve the disagreement while keeping the relationship.
This article was originally published on our blog on February 8, 2018.