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The definition of conflict resolution is to resolve an issue or problem between two or more people, but is there a correct way to handle conflict?
Since every marriage has its tensions, it isn’t a question of avoiding them but of how you deal with them. Conflict can lead to a process that develops oneness or isolation. You and your spouse must choose how you will act when conflict occurs.
There is a successful process to resolving conflict within your marriage. This process is most effective when you and your spouse are de-escalated from a conflict and have had some time to calm down and reflect. Sit down together and work through these steps gently and intentionally.
Follow these 5 steps in order:
Share how you felt during the conflict without saying why you felt that way. Identify your feelings out loud. For example, “I felt misunderstood,” or “I felt stupid,” or “I felt taken for granted.”
This step is to help identify subject realities and to validate each other’s realities.
- Take turns describing your perceptions and your own reality of what happened. Describe only what you saw, heard and felt without attacking or blaming your partner. Be objective by saying “I heard you say…” rather than “You said…” Give your partner room for correcting anything misheard or misunderstood. Talk about what you may have needed from your spouse in that moment.
- Summarize and then validate your partner’s reality by saying something like, “That makes sense to me now why you saw it this way…” Use empathy by saying things like, “I can see why this upset you.” Validation doesn’t mean you agree with your partner but that you can understand part of their experience.
- Do both partners feel understood? If yes, then move on. If no, ask “What do I need to know to understand your perspective better?”
- After summarizing and validating, ask your spouse, “Did I get it?” and “Is there anything else?”
Next identify and validate each other’s triggers.
- Share what escalated the interaction for you. What events in the interaction triggered a big reaction to you?
- As you rewind the tape of your memory, stop at a point where you had a similar set of feelings triggered in the past. Now, tell the story of that past moment to your partner so they can understand why it is a trigger for you.
- Continue to share your stories with one another. Are there other stories in your early history that relate to what got triggered in you? Does any part of your partner’s triggers and story make sense to you?
- Some examples of triggers are “I felt criticized. I am very sensitive to that.” Or “I felt out of control. I am very sensitive to that.”
Under ideal conditions, you might have done better at talking about this issue. What set you up for the miscommunication? What was your state of mind at the time? Take responsibility for your part in the conflict.
- Share how you set yourself up to get into the conflict. Some examples of your part leading up to the conflict may be, “I have been very stressed and irritable.” Or “I had been over critical.” Or “I didn’t ask for what I needed.”
- Specifically, what do you regret? Specifically, what was your contribution to this regrettable incident or conflict?
- What do you wish to apologize for? For example, “I’m sorry that I over-reacted.” Or “I’m sorry I was defensive.” Or “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.”
- If you accept your partner’s apology, say so. If not, say what you still need.
- CONSTRUCTIVE PLANS…
Make plans for the future about how to prevent conflicts from occurring and how to work through them if they do. Be as agreeable as possible to the plans suggested by your partner.
- What is one thing your partner can do differently to avoid an incident like this from happening again?
- Share one thing your partner can do to make a discussion of this issue better next time.
- Then, while it’s still your turn, share one thing you can do to make it better next time.
Successful conflict resolution is necessary for a strong and healthy marriage. Use these 5 steps to guide you and your spouse towards deeper intimacy in your relationship by effectively resolving conflict between you.
Have you had trouble resolving conflict in your marriage? How do you think these steps will help you and your spouse draw closer together? Share in the comments!