Resolving conflicts in relationships

Children dealing with issues

Have you ever heard the Gretchen Wilson song “The Bed”? It talks about a woman lying in bed crying, just wishing that her husband would reach out to her, “if he’d just reach out she’d forget about all the times that he let her down, Oh but in his mind everything’s all right when the lights go out,” the lyrics go. When he finally does lean over in bed to say I love you, “… all he finds are pages full of words she’d never said.”

Remember if you don’t communicate your feelings and your spouse isn’t getting a proper read on your body language, you’ve got to just come out and say what you’re feeling and what is on your mind. One thing that has helped my wife and I with communicating about issues and distress is to agree on certain rules about arguments (or discussions). Top 5 rules to agree upon for conflict resolution with your spouse:

Make an agreement to not bring up past problems that have already been resolved; this is not necessary and just adds more problems during conflict resolution. The last thing you need when you are down is to be reminded that you forgot to take out the trash last week, especially when you are discussing what is bothering you now. You should-be talked about the trash last week, not now.

Try to resolve the issue on the day that the issue occurs, not months down the road, so that everything is fresh in your mind and not trying to rebuild the scenario over again because you’ve stewed about it for a month and have allowed your mind to exaggerate the issue. Ephesians 4:26 states, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Give each other time to speak, take turns talking, and do not interrupt. Try to stay on subject and allow the other to respond before changing the subject. Don’t keep repeating yourself. State the facts and talk about what is truly bothering you, then allow your spouse to respond and listen. Think about what you are going to say before you say it, it helps if you listen fully to what your spouse has said, let it sink in before saying something rash that you’ll regret. “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction (Proverbs 16:23)”

Once all the facts are out there and your spouse knows how you are feeling and has been given a few minutes to respond, take time to ponder how the other person feels without talking and try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Seriously contemplate this without any distractions if you can; this also allows you to cool down a bit, which many times has opened up my eyes and my spouses eyes to the other person’s point-of-view. Try to move on to step 5 before you go to bed that night; this is important, as without the last step this problem is not truly resolved and you will have a hard time following rule 1 and this issue will come up again if not fester and burn you up inside.

Apologize, forgive, and forget (don’t bring it up again; see rule 1). You’ve just spent some time contemplating what was done, what you did, and what your spouse did. Where could you have done better, accept that, apologize, and try to change that aspect in your life (if you can). Accept the apology from your spouse and truly work in your heart and soul to forgive them.

If both you and your spouse agree to follow these guidelines, your arguments will be fewer and will be resolved much easier.