Resolving ongoing conflict in marriage - Resolving Ongoing Conflicts: When You Just Don't Agree

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! And today I want to talk about resolving ongoing conflicts.

Do you and your husband butt heads about the same issue, again and again?

I’ve talked in this blog about how you have to accept your husband for who he is without demanding that he change before you fully commit and love him. But that’s pretty difficult. What if he does something really bad? What if he’s involved in something really awful?

Yes, you need to confront. You can separate the sin from the person.

But how can you confront on an important issue and still show love?

How can you accept him when you’re mad, and he’s doing something that endangers the family? Are you supposed to just sit there and take it?

Of course, it depends on the severity of what it is, but this week I read an excellent article by the Happy Housewife which walks you through how to confront over the issue of finances.

She says:

We argued about every single purchase. It took me 14 years, but I finally learned that you can’t argue someone into changing their spending habits. You can’t nag someone into cutting up the credit cards. While you might see results initially, they will go back to their old ways of spending in time and they’ll resent you in the process.

You can’t change someone’s mind about money. So if you can’t change their mind what can you do?

And she goes on to list a number of action steps you can take to change the situation while still living in harmony with your husband. Let’s talk about what often happens during that 14 years where you’re trying to get him to change, and not succeeding.

You think, “why is he like this?” You judge him and think less of him. You say to yourself, “he’s endangering the family! He’s irresponsible!”

How can you really build intimacy with someone you think is wrong, misguided, and selfish?

It can’t be done. You’re really waiting for him to change.

The Happy Housewife suggests specific steps you can take on the finances issue, but I want to take her steps and turn them into more general ones that will work for just about any issue. So here goes!

1. To end ongoing conflicts, Change the way YOU behave.

She suggests cutting the budget in the areas that you control, even if he won’t. But this applies to anything. If your issue is that he plays video games all the time and doesn’t play with the kids, then plan family activities. Do fun things anyway. Plan for things after dinner. But take control where you can, rather than waiting for him to do something.

2. Ask to talk about goals.

Sit down and talk about what your goals are for the family. Then ask how you’re going to reach those goals. It doesn’t need to be a blame session; it can just be a “where are we going?” session. If your issue is that he’s never home, but one of the goals for the family is that the kids grow up to be emotionally healthy, then ask how that is best achieved without him. Let him start thinking about the future and coming up with solutions.

3. Encourage friendships with strong male role models

Many men don’t have other men that they hang out with. Men tend to be quite solitary, and only have their wives as friends. Encourage friendships with guys who do have things together. Invite the couple over for dinner. Play games together. Do something so that he can get to know another male who does things differently.

4. Suggest taking a course together.

If it’s finances, suggest going to a finance course when your church offers it. Go to a marriage conference together (they’re actually quite fun!).

5. Pray about it

Don’t pray that your husband will change necessarily; pray that God will form him into the man that God wants him to be. Pray that God will have His way with him. And pray that God will help you love him and help you to be the wife He wants you to be, too!

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Finally, I’d add one point that the Happy Housewife didn’t have, and it’s this:

6. Have fun together

When you’re upset about an area of your marriage, sometimes the fun deflates completely. How can you joke around with someone you fundamentally don’t respect? In order to move forward in your marriage, though, you need to build goodwill. It’s very hard to make significant positive change if you’re angry at each other. So find things to do that are fun. Laugh together.

Make it a priority to just do stuff–almost anything–together frequently. Go for walks. Jog. Play squash or tennis. Do a puzzle. Cook. Fix up the house. It really doesn’t matter. Just find a hobby that you can do, and spend time together where it’s just plain fun. That way you see each other as being on the same team, and it’s a lot easier to tackle any problems that come!

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