Some marriage conflicts never seem to be resolved. This situation leaves couples arguing about the same thing over and over again. But things do not have to be this way. Most conflicts can be resolved if a consistent process is followed.
While these steps may seem time consuming at first, in the end they are saving countless hours of exhausting arguing and avoiding. In addition, allowing an issue to go unaddressed causes it to eventually grow into something unmanageable.
- Environment, rules & boundaries – Begin the discussion in a neutral territory such as a restaurant. Set a time limit, focus on one problem, remain calm and agree to disagree if needed. Decide on no name calling, belittling of ideas or manipulative behavior.
- Agree on the problem – Each should describe the problem as they see it. Then look for a larger issue and any underlying fears and needs. Pick one battle at a time.
- Gather information – Use SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). What strengths / weaknesses does the other person have that will help in this situation? Is there an opportunity for growth? Who or what might threaten success?
- Brainstorm solutions – Initially focus on keeping it positive, being creative and staying in the present. Be careful to withhold criticism and instead welcome unusual solutions. Next, focus on turning problems into possibilities, improving on ideas and combining concepts.
- Negotiate – Work towards a collaborative solution by being hard on the problem and soft on the person. Then emphasize common ground and make clear agreements on small things. If necessary, be willing to forgive or ask for forgiveness. This is the time to let go of inconsequential things. Most importantly, allow time for each party to speak and listen.
- Take action – Pick one idea and set a target date to start. Then, establish evaluation times and an end date.
- Evaluate – On the end date, ask these questions. What worked? How can it be improved? Where is help needed?
Resolving conflicts strengthens a marriage and binds two people closer together. This process is very time consuming in the beginning but well worth the investment.