Recently I’ve been teaching a series at church all about experiencing God’s best within marriage. (You can check it out here.) One of the messages was on the topic of communication.
I have never met anyone who said they wish they communicated less in their marriage. I know plenty of people who wish the nagging tone of communication would lessen or they wish there were less fights, I mean, discussions.
Disagreements happen within a marriage. Sometimes it leads to all out conflict and things can be said out of hurt that cannot be retracted.
I shared some of these tips for resolving conflict in my message but wanted to expound and put them in blog form.
Tip # 1: Actively listen with a caring ear.
The tendency is to listen with the sole purpose of responding. The problem is you don’t actually listen to them, you are thinking about what you will say in response toward them. Body language, empathy, engagement, and a willingness to see from their perspective all help reinforce the value that you actually care for them.
Sometimes it is best to set a day and time to have a complete, uninterrupted conversation in which you need to resolve a conflict. Set the environment so it is comfortable and calm. A great approach for these types of conversations is to make “I feel” statements –
“I feel isolated and unvalued when decisions are made without being allowed to add my thoughts.” Communicating the affects of an action helps create empathy and gives the opportunity for your spouse to respond in a caring way.
Bottom line: Active listening helps limit attacking.
Tip #2: Short and sharp is incomplete.
In a day and time where memes rule the internet and they are used to make pointed opinions palatable – that approach will not work in the context of your marriage (and it really is incomplete in any context). As conflict arises in a marriage, you must work hard to avoid hurtful digs and sharp opinions. Avoid bringing up the past and keep on the subject. Choose not to use emotional trading stamps (i.e. you hurt my feelings so it’s only right I trade you and hurt you this way) or the silent treatment to make a point. Short and sharp statements can often sound like, “you always/never _____,” yet those types of remarks only add to the intensity and are not helpful to bringing reconciliation.
Bottom line: A meme can be humorous, but too many hurtful digs can create a grave for the relationship.
Tip #3: Fight for all their heart instead of fighting with all your heart.
The goal is not to be right but rather to have right relationships. Put your energy and focus into finding solutions to accompany any criticism and you will win their heart. But if you focus solely on pointing out problems you will fight with all your heart and lose their heart. When you realize you are wrong, admit it, apologize, and stop doing whatever it is. When you realize you are right, just shut-up.
Bottom line: Your spouse wants you on their side in life not on the sideline as a critic.
I realize many people who read this are likely in the middle of a serious conflict. I am praying for you. I know it’s not easy to walk through these situations. While you desperately want the scenario to change, the only component within your control is you. So choose your words, actions, and attitudes so they communicate love, hope, empathy, sincerity, and a desire to reconcile.
I hope these thoughts have been encouraging and life-giving.
What are some helpful tips you’d add?