to Fight Fair in Marriage
is one of the ways we resolve marital conflicts.
Following are ten guidelines to help you do
it in a healthy way.
1. Face your fear of confrontation
Do you cringe at the thought of confrontation?
Due to past experiences, you may perceive
any conflict or confrontation as an emotionally
crushing experience. You may believe, "If
we clash, I'll be judged, or worse, rejected."
Marriage counselor and minister Luke Perry,
points out that a fear-based mentality is
the root of this perception.
who think this way are caught in a cycle of self-condemnation,"
he says. "This is often due to a lack of acceptance
while growing up. When this fear controls a person, confrontation
can be very painful."
this fear starts with understanding that confronting your
spouse is an act of love. It may be helpful to write down
a list of the benefits that will result when the hurtful
issue is resolved. This will keep you focused on the reasons
for talking about the situation. Refer to it when either
you or your spouse becomes defensive. Shining a positive
light on a delicate confrontation will help keep peace between
Discuss the conflict as soon as possible
old proverb, "time heals all wounds" does not
apply to conflicts in marriage. But the modern-day saying,
"timing is everything" does. When an irritating
issue is unresolved, it builds emotional distance between
you and your spouse. And just like a splinter, the issue
gets under your skin and continues to fester until it is
your spouse's behavior bothers you, make a decision to confront
your mate as soon as possible. If the issue needs your undivided
attention, choose a time when no one else is around-even
if you have to ask for a few minutes alone together.
State exactly what is bothering you
was upset. She had repeatedly asked Frank to pick up his
clothes. But, once again, she stared down at his dirty socks
lying on the bedroom floor. "I shouldn't make such
a big deal out of it," she thought. "After all,
I'm the one who's home all day."
an irritating action or hoping an issue will just go away
doesn't work. Hiding the pain that you feel today will only
later resurface in the form of sarcasm, criticism, or anger.
When you choose to overlook a potential conflict, you allow
resentment to build, while inviting strife and division
to take up residence. It also means that you are giving
your mate permission to continue his or her bothersome behavior.
a marriage to remain on equal footing, both spouses must
take responsibility for their actions. Be willing to state
exactly what is that you don't like. Then the two of you
can discuss some specific solutions.
Stick to the subject at hand
marriages, confronting an issue is the gunpowder that ignites
World War III. Defenses kick in. Accusations fly. And by
the time the smoke has cleared, spouses have bombed each
other with everything that has happened since the day they
you decide to face an issue, don't allow yourself-or your
mate-to drag in past hurts. Deal with one issue at a time.
Make a rule between yourselves that if neither is willing
to discuss a sore point as soon as it happens, then the
issue cannot be used as ammunition for future fights.
If your spouse says you do, then it's true
confronted with an issue, your first response may be to
hide behind statements such as, "No I don't" or
"You're just exaggerating." When your mate states
that you're doing something irritating, trust him or her.
Consciously choose to look past your defensive walls and
ask your spouse, "Why does this bother you?" Then
listen to what is being said. Try to see his or her point
of view, and be willing to change for the good of your marriage.
always putting down my family," Tom fumed to Becky
as they left his parent's house. "Can't you ever say
anything nice about them?"
Becky yelled. "You think that I'm always putting down
your family?" Extreme words such as always, never,
right, wrong, good, or bad will cause your mate to be defensive
and lash out at you. These words generalize a situation
without giving proof that what you are saying is true. Stick
to concrete examples of present-day behavior. Then your
spouse will have a vivid illustration of his or her actions.
Avoid personal insults and character assassination
your mate's character is the best way to make an enemy for
life," says Pastor Luke Perry. "To avoid this,
it is important to see the issue as the problem-not your
spouse. This is how God deals with us. He tells us of his
infinite acceptance, yet confronts us on issues that do
not line up with his word."
focused on the issue at hand. This will help you to remain
objective and express your thoughts clearly without alienating
your spouse through personal attacks.
Confront with truth. Affirm with love
I really appreciate all of your hard work around the house.
But when I asked you to bring in the mail, you ignored my
wishes. Why is that?"
best way to talk about something negative is to start with
something positive. Next, state the issue, and give your
mate the opportunity to reflect on the problem you've presented.
Your partner may not realize that their actions are upsetting
you. And when you give your spouse a chance to think things
through, he or she may surprise you with a positive response.
Listen to learn
couples come into my office we rarely deal with the real
issues during the first session," says Pastor Luke.
"Sadly, many couples have never learned the art of
conversation. And they are so buried in their hurts, they
cannot put their feelings into words."
to listen to your spouse after you confront him or her.
Just as you want to be heard, so does your spouse. If there
are hurt feelings involved, be patient as you wade through
the tough issues together.
ask your spouse to see from your perspective, be willing
to see from his or hers as well. Are there changes that
need to be made on your part? Confrontation can be an opportunity
to learn new things about your spouse, as well as develop
greater teamwork and accountability together.
10. Confront to heal, not to win
Some people view conflict and confrontation
as a win-lose situation. These spouses see
being right as far more important than the
marital relationship. But working out a hurtful
issue is not about who's right and who's wrong.
Your goal should not be to win, but to confront
a conflict and restore the harmony in your
possible, the solution to a problem should benefit both
parties. When both spouses feel good about a resolution,
it will reestablish the emotional bond between the two of
you. Confronting to heal instead of to win will keep your
marriage on healthy ground.
Presland is a freelance writer from Essex, Ontario. He's
written for popular magazines and newspapers such as Marriage
Partnership, The Lookout, Canadian Homes and Cottages, The
REV, ChristianWeek, and The Windsor Star.