In the midst of conflict, sometimes silence is the best option when we have to sort through our thoughts before we can act. When we talk about conflict, in the context of a marriage, silence for too long or silence without resolution can be perceived as passive aggression (indirect hostility). So what do we say or do when it’s time to engage in conflict resolution in a peaceful and fruitful way –when it’s time to face the problem like a Christian?
- Pick your battles. Your spouse is animated about something, think quick! Are they just venting or are they looking for a solution that isn’t on the table yet? More then often a ‘fight’ doesn’t become one until a response is thrown. So tread lightly and choose wisely.
- Be a listener. This is excruciating, you’re human, you believe you have a point, your blood is boiling… remember the 5P’s in the previous blog (here) and add this to the list. Listen carefully to not only what is being said but to the way it’s being said. Sometimes words are thrown around out of frustration or emotion –we forgive. That’s not your cue to go Hulk and start smashing things. That doesn’t justify hurtful words in return. Listen. Because you’ll learn more about the root of your spouse’ emotions or frustrations when you’re not interrupting to make a point. Make your goal to understand them and the situation thoroughly.
- Get Professional. Not in a condescending way. What this simply means is that when its your turn to respond, choose your words in the same way you would talk to someone at work. This communication style during a disagreement between husband and wife is effective because it takes away the emotion out of the conversation and focuses on facts, logic and finding solutions. Remember emotions can be misleading, so don’t ever just go off that.
- Just talk. At least one of you has to keep their cool, so repeat this over and over again in the exchange: “Let’s talk about this. Let’s just talk.” This switches gears from it formally being a fight to becoming a disagreement –which is a step closer to understanding and acceptance. Which is good, that’s progress. Insisting that this is a ‘talk’ or that ‘you just wanna talk about it’ also makes your spouse adjust their tone and anger level to meet you down in discussion-land.
- Don’t fight to win. A family unit belongs to one team so technically –there are no winners or losers. Like what Apostle Paul said, when a part of the body suffers the whole body suffers with it and when one part of the body rejoices the whole body rejoices with it. But in this case there could be a wrong or right. You know they’re wrong. You might have an urge to rub it in…don’t. You’re gonna make things worse. You listened, you got professional, you had a talk and you know you can Instead of going into celebration extend understanding to the other party. You’re not perfect so empathize with their feelings. If you are the other person and you realize you are wrong, don’t dig up the past to even the playing field. If you explained your side and now you understand your mistake –acknowledge the misunderstanding and apologize.
- Come to an understanding. So what was it that triggered the fight between you and your spouse? How can we make sure that this misunderstanding doesn’t happen again? This is the point where you must make the effort to understand each other and come to peace with the situation. Don’t leave the discussion open ended, simmering to just ‘whatever.’ Respect and value your relationship more than that. Maybe the understanding in the end is that you’ll agree to disagree, sometimes this is ok. If you were fighting about which chicken Vindaloo was better your mom’s or the restaurant’s down the street –go ahead and agree to disagree. If you were arguing about how to discipline your child, there is no agree to disagree here –come to an understanding.
- The Impasse. When this happens, remember all is not lost. In a marriage, it doesn’t mean you’ve grown apart or that you don’t love each other anymore. It just means you need help finding your footing in order to move forward. As you pray together to find solutions, remember that there are elders in the Church that are out for your wellbeing. Overseers, Head Deacons and of course your Resident Worker or Minister. Don’t go on texting frenzies and consult your friends about your situation. In fact it’s probably best to omit them from the discussion as much as possible. It’s unavoidable that when you tell them about the fight from your perspective that the facts might lean more towards your favor. When that happens, you paint your spouse in a bad light. Don’t do that. You can’t un-say words, even long after the fight is over. Keep it Christian.
In facing conflict Christians should display both boldness facing the issue head on and at the same time learn to listen and understand with love and compassion. “As members of the Church of Christ there is no such thing as irreconcilable differences because with God nothing is impossible. To make our marriage a lasting and joyful one God must be at the center.”