Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Marital Conflict: How To Fight Fairly

All couples fight or at least disagree. However, not all couples do it well. Sadly, some marriages have ended not because they weren't in love, but because they did so much damage when they weren't feeling very loving. Their words, expressions, and responses all spoke more to their winning their own personal battle than trying to understand the other person.

Other had terrible models in their home growing up. The only things they know to do are yell, scream and demand their own way. 

So how do we fight and face conflict more effectively?  Most of these principles are common knowledge and often taught by counselors but my experience is that most couples, especially those in trouble, don't have a clue about them. Or if they have heard them they simply don't use them.

First, speak only in the here and now. It's not fair nor helpful to bring up the past or predict the future. We do that when we tie the current struggle to a past action or attitude. When we use always and you never we immediately move our discussion out of the current situation.

To speak in the here and now you talk only about your feelings and needs related to the problem at hand, nothing else. "I'm angry and confused because this morning you said we were not going to go away during the holidays and tonight you want to change everything."

However, what would an unfair fight sound like in the same setting? "Don, this is what you always do. You say one thing and do another. I can never count on knowing what's in your head because you'll change your mind on a dime and I'm sick of it!"

Second, listen and seek to understand. So often the deepest need both partners have is first to be understood. In fact sometimes understanding is the only thing needed. Try to find out both the other person's real feelings and what they need from you that would help them feel less that way next time. Don't either of you be satisfied until you feel like you've accomplished both for each other.

Third, determine a first step that you will take to make things better. A lot of spouses get frustrated because even if something is talked about often the other person never does it. Showing your mate that you are actually going to make changes and vice versa will help you want to go through the process again.  It gets results!

So next time you feel the heat rising and tempers getting ready to blow, try some here and now listening and discussion followed by some actual changes. Quit the posturing and demanding that you win the argument.  Remember that awhile back you stood before God and some people and vowed to love each other through the good and the bad. Now is your chance to really put that into practice.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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