My wife and I have been more married for two and a half years. The other day, one of mom’s friends said, “I love the way you and your wife interact. You guys really get along and it’s clear that you respect each other.” I smiled and agreed with her, noting that I was blessed to have a very patient wife who I highly value and cherish. But it got me to thinking…why isn’t this the norm? Why do we live in generation where broken, dysfunctional relationships are the norm? Why is there confusion about what being in a relationship entails and how to effectively love someone else?
I’m no expert, but my logic and spiritual foundation doesn’t allow me to believe that someone who loves me will continuously go out of their way to hurt me. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home, so my tolerance for foolishness is very low. Foolishness in my mind includes yelling, lying, cheating, disrespect, any for physical or emotional abuse…you get where I’m going. And a lot of the confusion that I see throughout my various social media outlets regarding relationships is usually due to a failure to communicate or address conflict appropriately.
Here are three ways that I’ve learned to handle conflict in a relationship:
Take time to self-reflect and really ask yourself questions that will allow you to really get to heart of the matter. Why do I feel like this? Was there an expectation that wasn’t met? If so, what was I expecting? Did I communicate that expectation well to my partner? Figuring out the underlying reason first helps you to address your feelings more effectively later. You must understand what your real issue is BEFORE you start blaming your partner. A lot of times, when I take the time to really understand and flesh out what is bothering me, I can really communicate the issue better with my wife. For example, I got upset with my wife because she put the baby bottle in the sink. She was so confused. My real problem was that I felt she wasn’t helping me clean the kitchen enough. The baby bottle in the sink exemplified to me a lack of care, which resulted in frustration. If I communicated that I wanted her to wash the dishes that day, that would have avoided the unnecessary drama and frustration on my part. When I took a step back, and self reflected, I saw that I wasn’t upset about the bottle at all.
2. Communicate Your Feelings.
I’m a lawyer by profession. I have no problem being critical, analyzing situations, and coming to a result about what the central issue is and how to resolve it. Prior to being married, whenever conflict arose, I would look for someone or something to BLAME. After being married and fully understanding that my wife is on my team, I’ve worked to adjust how I respond to conflict. I’ve learned to communicate my feelings while not placing blame on my wife for those feelings. I’ve learned to take ownership of the role I play in either addressing those feelings or not. As my wife sometimes says, “I cannot read your mind” and she is correct. If I have a need and I tie it to an expectation, I need to communicate that. Communication can make or break a relationship, but you have to get to a point where even if you don’t think you should have to say it, just say it. And learn your partner well enough that you say things in a way that they can receive it.
Once you communicate your feelings, you must give your partner the opportunity to respond. At this point, you have one job: LISTEN. This is a critical part of conflict resolution. Listening allows you to hear your partners perspective and clear up any confusion. When you establish a deep emotional connection with your spouse, even if you disagree with their response, making yourself available to hear their heart is important and necessary. You can learn a lot if you listen more than you talk.