Alicia and I had only been dating a few months. It was early spring and I was in the middle of renovating a house I had recently bought. I’m the guy that never really sits still. I’m working away getting this house ready to rent and she shows up just to be supportive and spend time with me. That evening she tells me, “WE NEED TO TALK.”
In past relationships this was the death sentence for anyone I ever dated. “We need to talk” meant there was about to be conflict and I grew up with conflict being ugly. So when the slightest bit of conflict reared its ugly little head, I would cut bait and run.
After she told me this, I decided it was time to send her on her way. I gently told her I could see this was not going anywhere good so we probably just needed to break up. There it was, that look on her face that she still uses today. It’s that spinning roundhouse kick to the face Walker Texas Ranger became so famous for.
She didn’t yell. She didn’t scream. She simply said I’m not going anywhere until we figure this out. I had no idea what to do with this style of fighting. She was not willing to let me just run away. We sat down that evening and she shared her heart with me. How much she cared about me and that she was willing to calmly work through this. I was speechless! I had really never encountered conflict from this perspective.
Conflict is never fun – yet conflict is inevitable. And the truth is, most of us stink at it. Conflict will immediately test a person’s self confidence and expose most of our insecurities. We can sometimes feel attacked when we engage in a tough conversation and instinctively respond in an unhealthy way.
The result is a snowball of verbal punches that we later wish we had never thrown – and, which create wounds that hurt. Yes, the wounds may heal; but, they do leave scars.
So how do we engage in conflict in a healthy manner that brings peace and harmony to a relationship?
Run…But Not Far
Do not, under any circumstance, engage in conflict while emotions or tempers are flaring. Go away, calm down, gather your thoughts and allow the person you’re fighting with to do the same.
When you are emotional, you are more likely to say and do things that will only cause more damage to the situation.
Come back together when both parties are calmer and agree to come to a resolve. State the goal. The objective should always be to restore peace. Agree to not communicate in an ugly way. If it starts to get ugly, choose to stop, back off, and then engage again later when both of you are calm.
State the Facts
Try to keep a clear grasp on what the facts are. What is the true subject of disagreement? Understanding what the problem truly is will certainly help with paving the road to a solution. Be honest about how the situation makes you feel.
Opinions are just that – opinions – and you know what they say about opinions. Keep them to yourself, do not let your opinions bleed into dialect. It’s okay to communicate how you feel, or how a situation makes you feel, but just giving your opinion will not get you very far.
Marital relationships are forever changing. Different stages of life brings different challenges and more opportunities for conflict. The more time we spend with someone helps us understand how they tick. We should take something away from every conflict that can help us in future situations:
- Learning how each other responds.
- Knowing sensitivities.
- Allowing for each other’s faults.
Taking the time to learn the intricacies of your partner and how they are wired is a huge benefit to any relationship. Time together is the only way to achieve that knowledge.
In February of this year, Alicia and I will have been married for nine years. These nine years have not been perfect by any means, but there has always been peace in our home. The main reason is because she is the “Chuck Norris” of marital conflict.
When I start getting wound up and sticking my chest out ready to fight, she gives me that humble little look and down I go. Her ability to handle conflict in our marriage has created an environment of safety and respect for me as a husband and a sense of security and protection for her as a wife.