One thing that every couple experiences is conflict at different times in their marriage. It can be conflict over finances, in-laws, parenting or the color of the paint you want in your dining room.
After almost 27 years of marriage, I’ve learned that the way you choose how to handle conflict is very important. In the early years of my marriage I did the thing that most females do, I cried and carried on and acted like a drama queen. After awhile, I realized that tactic got old and it had little effect on my husband after a few months. So, of course, I tried my mom’s fail-safe method of dealing with conflict – the silent treatment.
My mom could give my dad the silent treatment for three weeks. I’m seriously not kidding about that. For me, that tactic never worked because I am, how shall we say, a VERY vocal person so for me the silent treatment lasted about 20 minutes and I resorted to one of the worst ways to deal with conflict which is being historical. Notice I didn’t say “hysterical” I said “historical.”
Within five minutes I could recount every wrong thing my husband ever did just as though it had happened that very day. Needless to say, that wasn’t a good way to deal with the problem either. That usually produced me being hysterically historical when he wouldn’t engage in my behavior.
Now, of course, women do deal with conflict in different ways. Some immediately reach for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s Double Fudge Chunk Ice Cream while others reach for a glass or two (OK maybe a half a bottle) of wine. For me, it occasionally means retail therapy. That worked when we had a joint bank account because I could go out and buy something and smirk because not only was I making my husband pay for my new purchase, but I was also making him pay by enduring me slamming drawers, cupboard doors and cooking utensils anytime he was in my presence.
Now that I’ve been married for quite some time, when I’m upset I don’t bother to slam things, run to the nearest mall or grab for the Ben and Jerry’s. I simply do the sane thing. I talk it out with my husband.
For couples with children who are young and haven’t entered their teen years, finding a time to talk it out is tough. By the time you’ve both gone through your day, your energy is so spent on just discussing the necessary things about the children that you don’t have the brain power or the ability to properly verbalize what is bothering you without it starting an argument or ending up with the two of you going to bed upset with each other.
So my first rule is this:
Choose WISELY the time you decide to discuss what’s wrong. Don’t do it when you’re both exhausted and unable to think clearly. Take time away from the children, even if it means getting up a bit earlier to talk to one another. If it’s really something pressing, ask someone to come watch the kids for even an hour so that you and your husband can go sit somewhere, even if it’s a park to talk it out. Go out to breakfast if you have to just to have some time alone to talk.
My second rule in fair fighting is this:
Stick to the facts. Don’t start going off into a tangent about other things. State your concern clearly and concisely just like you would to any other human being For some reason we tend to go off in all directions when speaking to our spouse which in turn makes them turn us off.
My third rule is this:
Don’t attack your spouse verbally. Avoid using phrases like, “You ALWAYS,” or starting out a sentence with “I am so sick and tired of YOU doing …”. When you start out a conversation that way, it immediately puts the other person on the defensive. And, admit it, when someone does it to YOU, you don’t like it either. Try saying, “Honey, I’m not sure if you realize it or not but when you text on your Blackberry when I’m talking to you, it makes me feel as though I don’t have your full attention. Would you mind putting it down for a few moments so we can talk?”
It’s all in the approach ladies. So, hit the filter button between your brain and your mouth before you start the conversation.
My fourth rule is this:
NEVER fight in front of the kids. Children look at mom and dad as the stable part of their lives. Especially for younger children. If you and your spouse are raising your voices to each other to the point that even the dog is running for cover, then you both need to stop and take a time out.
I’m not saying that your children should never see the two of you in conflict, I’m saying be careful of the way you conduct yourself in front of them. I can remember my own parents arguing and it would upset me that they were mad at each other. Now that I’m married, of course, I realize that this is a normal part of any marriage for couples to not be mushy gushy in love all the time. Still, my husband and I tried to be careful not to have a full out war in front of the kids, which for two passionate Italians can be quite an interesting feat.
My last rule is this:
Don’t drag others into your arguments or conflicts. Don’t trash your spouse to your children or your mother or father or siblings or best friend or your moms group or Bible study companions. Putting your children in the middle of the conflict by telling them that their dad is an idiot, or that he did this or that is not healthy.
Belittling your husband to others is wrong. A wife should never sit and tear down her husband and vise versa. We should build each other up because words cut deeper than anything and don’t think for one moment that your comment isn’t going to get back to them because somehow, some way it does and it usually happens after things have settled down and you’ve made up and everything is OK. Suddenly you’re doing damage control and that can be more costly.
Realize this, a good marriage takes work and compromise and not just on one person’s part either. BOTH parties need to realize from day one that marriage is not a 50/50 split. It’s 110 percent giving from both parties all the time to make it work.
Marriage isn’t for wimps. If you don’t like conflict and you don’t like confrontation, then stay single because you will have conflict and there will be confrontations over the years. Most importantly, don’t let your everyday life get so out of control that you forget about why you married your spouse. Take a memory break and start to think about the things that first attracted you to your spouse – their smile, their sense of humor, their intellect, their eyes, and … well whatever else it was that may have attracted you that I can’t necessarily put into print.
When conflict gets too intense and you can’t solve it together, then enlist the help of a marriage counselor or clergy member and do your best to work things out. Don’t just take your toys and run without first trying to work it out. The hard work and tears really do pay off in many instances so do your best to have pitbull tenacity when it comes to your marriage. Both of you need to commit to making it work. And, most of all, choose your battles wisely. Don’t start a whole big to do about your husband leaving the peanut butter jar out on the counter. Put it away. Does it really matter in the scheme of things?
Love is precious and fragile. Love for a lifetime is a priceless gift. Enjoy it and cherish it.