Although many wouldn’t admit it, I am willing to put out there that conflict is common in all relationships. Marriage like any relationship isn’t always easy to navigate and as a result conflicts/disagreements will arise. They say opposites attract; so when you take two individuals with different life experiences and backgrounds, pepper in colorful personalities, unique quirks, a side of mis-aligned expectations coupled with the pressures of daily survival, known as life, you have created a recipe for conflict. Since every relationship inevitably has strains, the issue is not how to avoid conflict but rather how to deal with and diffuse conflict before it escalates too far.
As a couple it is essential to know how to properly handle conflict. Here are some tips to help resolve and de-escalate conflicts before they go too far.
“You Shut Your Mouth When You’re Talking to Me”: This is one of my favorite movie lines from a couple in conflict and accurately evokes the feelings you might have when you are embroiled in conflict with your partner. The reality is there are two sides to every argument and while you may think your partner is totally off base, you won’t be able to understand their point of view or find common ground if you don’t listen to them and let them express their feelings/opinions on the issue.
Focus on the issue NOT the person: Playing the blame game and finger pointing are never productive and will never bring about a resolution to the issue. If you really want to resolve a conflict, stick to the issues, share your point-of –view, express your feelings on the subject, and offer your ideas for a solution, then let your partner do the same and hear them out. By remaining focused on the issue, you can avoid the conversation devolving into “taking shots” at one another. When character assassination begins in a conflict it often times leads to saying things you don’t really mean and ends up causing more damage and harm than necessary without resolving the conflict itself.
Be aware of non-verbal communication, especially facial expressions: I have no poker face and my face reveals how I truly feel, which is especially telling during a conflict when the words coming out of my mouth are in direct opposition to what my non-verbals are expressing. Actions do speak louder than words, so make sure what you are projecting is in alignment with what you are saying or your partner will receive mixed messages and the conflict may not be fully resolved.
Use Situational Awareness: If you are in public, or if your children are around, you’re going to have to defer the discussion until another more appropriate time. This can be super difficult especially if you are angry. Self-discipline and self-control are paramount especially if you are in a situation where you cannot discuss the issue or an immediate solution is not apparent. Temporarily stepping away from the conversation or deferring it until you are in a position to have the discussion or to let flaring tempers cool down may be necessary. Using situational awareness will be your guide as to the appropriate timing to have a conflictual conversation and will give you the opportunity to regroup and come back to the conversation with a cooler head.
If you employ these tactics you will be able to defuse conflicts when they arise and be better able to resolve conflicts quickly and permanently. If you have children, you will teach them through your example the importance of conflict resolution and respectful engagement.