Fighting in marriage is not fun. Either we never mention what’s bugging us, or we have the same fight, over and over, and rarely resolve anything.
I was looking through some older blog posts recently, ones that I wrote before this blog had very many readers, and I came across one that I really liked. So I thought I would share it with you today: how we can resolve conflict in marriage quickly, rather than going round and round.
Fighting in Marriage Is Normal–Everybody Has Conflict
Last week my husband and I had such a textbook fight it was almost funny (in retrospect). Here’s what happened:
I was feeling overwhelmed with a lot of demands on me. I was trying to homeschool. I was working to some writing deadlines. I had things to do at church. I was speaking last weekend (and this weekend), and I had family who needed me.
And in the middle of all that, I didn’t have any time just to be by myself! And I need that “me” time. I had two specific issues with my girls, which were bugging me but which weren’t really the cause of my angst, but they were there nonetheless.
One night I had just had it and I let in to my husband about how busy I felt. I knew this was only for a time; many of these time crunchers would be gone soon, but I was overwhelmed. And I happened to mention my frustration that I couldn’t get Katie to practice piano right (although really this was minor compared to the rest of the things that were bugging me).
Keith’s work was flexible, so he offered to homeschool the girls the next day instead of catching up on paperwork, and I accepted, because he was sweet.
Fighting in Marriage Usually Has Trigger Points
Now, before I tell you the rest of the story, what warning signs do you see here? First, I was way overscheduled (that happens to some of us and at times it’s unavoidable. Other times we do it to ourselves by signing up for too many extracurricular activities.)
I didn’t have time just to be myself. We all need that!
And when we get to the end of our rope, little things that normally don’t bother us start to drive us around the bend.
Most of the time when we have conflict, you can trace it back to a trigger point that doesn’t actually have to do with your spouse. You were tired, overscheduled, irritable, hormonal–whatever. Before you blow up at your spouse, always look at yourself and say, am I in the middle of a classic trigger point for conflict? Is this really my spouse’s fault, or am I reacting out of something else? Examine yourself first!
Now, you want to hear what happened?
–End PAUSE here–
Fighting in Marriage is Often Because We See Our Roles Differently
The next day, as Keith was beginning to teach the girls school, he pulled the sergeant major routine. He called the girls down and started railing at them. He was upset at them because they were causing me stress. So I started in at him that he wasn’t really helping me. If he wanted to help me, he wouldn’t yell at the girls because the girls weren’t my problem. But he figured: IF I HAD A PROBLEM, HE HAD TO FIX IT. And since I had been complaining about two specific things the girls were doing (piano practice and sibling bickering), he felt it was time to whip them into shape. But to them, it came out of left field because they had thought that we were all getting along quite well.
So I was mad at Keith for being mad at the girls, he was mad at me for being mad at him, and the girls were just flabbergasted.
Instead of just realizing that he was doing a male thing–trying to fix things–and it would all be okay in the end, I was really angry, because he was supposed to make my day easier and instead he was causing stress for everyone (in my view). He didn’t want to talk about it, so instead of getting some work done, which would have at least lowered my stress issues, I seethed. I thought about how mean he was. I thought about how much he over-reacted. I thought about how he was too hard on the kids.
It is Usually Better to Talk it Through than to Seethe
When he was finally ready to talk, and we had everything out, I realized that both of us had over-reacted. He was just worried about me, and he was genuinely trying to help. He wanted the girls to know that they should never cause me stress, and he wanted to defend me, and I shot him down. But he also needed to know that sometimes I just want to vent. I don’t need him to fix anything; I just need him to listen.
Once we talked about it rationally, we were both soon laughing and hugging and everything was fine. I realized how much Keith loved me, and I felt much better.
The good thing is that the conflict was resolved really quickly–by noon it was over. Even though the anger feelings were as high as they were at the beginning of our marriage, we’re so much better at getting to the root of the problem and talking it out. He listens; I listen; and we’re more ready to forgive.
I think that’s the wisdom that comes with age and experience. I know he truly loves me, and he knows I truly love him. Then, when a conflict occurs and we’re able to think rationally, we realize that the problem can’t be a lack of love; more often than not, it’s just a misunderstanding.
Now, perhaps you’re one who has to collect your feelings and think about things before you talk to your spouse about a conflict. That’s fine. Often those who are more introverted do need more time to process. But, if possible, I do believe that dealing with things as quickly as possible is usually the best route, because often the conflict really is a misunderstanding.
Early in our marriage we would do one of two things: we would either each clam up, trying to will the other person to drag it out of us, or we would be so sure we were right that we wouldn’t even listen to the other person. Now we’ve learned to get it out early.
Inevitably, when two people live together we will have misunderstandings.
We will blow up and get angry occasionally. We will act inappropriately. It takes grace to make a marriage work; grace to our spouse, and grace to ourselves. So next time you’re really angry, take a deep breath, and ask yourself this:
Do I truly believe he doesn’t love me? Do I really think he’s evil? Is this how he usually acts? Or is this something unusual? Am I reading too much into this? Given what I know about my husband, are the things I’m feeling really justified just by what’s happening now?
And then–and I know this is hard when you’re angry–say a prayer that God will help you see your husband through His eyes. God, help me to see the truth in this situation, and not only my own anger.
Gain proper perspective on the argument, and then gain God’s perspective on your husband, and you just may find that listening to your husband and getting the conflict resolved is far easier than you used to think it was!
Do you find that you often get upset at your husband when he tries to fix things? What is the best route for you for resolving conflict quickly? Let me know in the comments!