BY CHRISTINE SCHULTZ
CONFLICT IS AN INEVITABLE PART of marriage. As imperfect people, we will always have differences with others — and we may not always handle them well. Marriage is a petri dish for conflict because it forces you to face life’s stresses alongside another imperfect person.
Interestingly, research has shown that the frequency of conflict has less effect on a marriage’s longevity than the quality of those confrontations. Some studies have even shown that avoiding conflict can be more damaging to a marriage than fighting. So, what kind of arguments should you avoid in order to have a long, happy marriage? The Bible sums it up better than any research study or relationship expert: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31, English Standard Version).
It is never too late to develop healthy conflict strategies. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1, New International Version). Use these suggestions to ensure that disputes build your marriage up, rather than tear it down.
Talk About Conflict Before It Happens
How does your husband feel about conflict? Does he face it head on or avoid it at all costs? When you understand how he feels about confrontation, you will be more equipped to manage fights when they arise. If one of you avoids conflict, you may need to establish strategies to ensure that issues aren’t left to fester. Sweeping important problems under the rug doesn’t make them disappear. It slowly erodes your marriage’s foundation.
Evaluate the Situation
When conflict does arise, look for underlying issues before you react. Are you or your husband stressed out because of work? Is your blood sugar low? Is this issue tied to your personal history? Sometimes frustrations arise because of external factors that need attention before you can resolve a disagreement. Try to hone in on the true cause so that you can resolve it.
Avoid Bitterness, Wrath, Anger, and Clamor
It is important that you either remain calm or reschedule your fight for a time when you can address it with less emotion. Unchecked emotions can cause the deepest wounds through hurtful words and actions. If you want your fight to be productive, you must first ensure that it isn’t destructive.
You already know that you shouldn’t call your husband names or insult him. But, when you say, “You always…” you are no longer commenting on his actions. Talking about behavior in absolute terms is attacking your husband’s character. Those words can be as damaging as a direct insult. And if you are being honest with yourself, your husband probably isn’t always guilty of something. These unfair comments can alienate him over time, even if you resolve the issues at hand.