This is the second in a two-part series about how couples can best respond to each other during conflict. In the first article, I explained how couples can learn certain strategies that will help them to not only successfully navigate disagreements, but also to use conflict to strengthen their marriage. I then identified the first six strategies and explained why these will help you respond well to your partner during a conflict. The following eleven Christian marriage counseling tactics continue from this previous article and continue to explore how you can use conflict for relational growth and health in your marriage:
Be Aware of your Body Language and Tone of Voice
What message are you sending with your body language? I am open and willing to talk or I am closed off? By staying calm and talking with a respectful neutral tone your spouse may be more willing to listen to you.
Address One Conflict at a Time
Stay on topic and don’t try to solve every problem in marriage which can lead to emotions intensifying, judgment clouding, and feeling overwhelmed.
Take Responsibility for your Own Feelings
Do not blame your partner for your feelings such as “You make me angry.” You are responsible for your own emotions, thoughts, behaviors, spirit, etc… Own your feelings by saying, “I am angry.”
Always Speak for Yourself
Speak to what you think and feel and not what your partner thinks and feels. Let your partner have the dignity of speaking for him or herself.
Take Ownership of your Mistakes
Humility is a necessary ingredient to resolving conflict. The Bible tells us we must first be willing to address the “plank in our own eye” before dealing with your partner’s shortcomings. You cannot change your spouse, but you can change yourself and model the behavior you wish to be treated with. Often times, acknowledging the pain you have caused your spouse and reaffirming their value to you can be healing and defuse conflict.
Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements
Speaking from an “I” versus “You” position can soften one’s response and feel less condemning to the other partner. For example, “I feel dismissed and sad when the house doesn’t get cleaned” versus “You don’t clean the house.”
Utilize Time-Outs if Needed
Sometimes a short period of silence or taking a break from the problem issue can bring clarity. Often times conflicts escalate when one spouse decides to quit and just leave the room without notifying their spouse. This may cause the other partner to feel rejected, abandoned or angry. For this technique to work, a time-out needs to be an agreed upon mutual decision.
Tact and Timing
Use discernment and pick your battles. Express feelings with tact and timing, so your partner can listen to what you are saying without getting defensive. Be aware of your triggers and when it is not good to have tough discussions such as after work, when you are tired or hungry, etc…
Don’t Stockpile Pain
Clinton and Trent (2009) recommend to not store up grievances because offenses can build up and then explode. Some spouses will use unresolved pain in conflicts as ammo against their spouse. Speak to the present circumstances and don’t dig up past offenses.
Learn to Forgive and Forgot
Forgiveness is powerful and creates stronger intimacy. When we know our partner can loves us despite our faults it shows the very nature of God’s grace and love. Ruth Bell Graham states a good marriage is the union of two good forgivers. Remember love covers a multitude of sins and chooses to see the best.
Call to Action and Affirm Love
Decide as a couple how you both will change the problem behavior to prevent this type argument in future and use this experience to learn and grow into a better people for each other. A good ending to a conflict is to reaffirm the value and love you have for your partner.
How Christian Marriage Counseling can help
A humble openness to grow and change is necessary in any marriage. Identifying our blind spots and applying these skills can be challenging. Contacting a Christian marriage counselor can be helpful for you and your partner to build better communication strategies to help your marriage thrive.
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