4 Suggestions to Lessen Your Marriage Conflict

Few of us like conflict, but most of us know that it is inevitable, especially in a serious relationship.  These few steps can help you take control of the fighting in your relationship and set a calmer tone to the conflict.

1.  Set a time for "discussion"

The best way to solve a disagreement is to set up an appointment with your spouse to calmly discuss the issue.  When you are in the middle of the fight, emotions are high and things may be said that you could regret.  

Setting a time to discuss the problem will allow both of you to cool off, step back, and gather your thoughts before trying to solve it.  Once you've set a time to talk, here are some other suggestions I recommend.

2.  Take turns talking and explaining your viewpoint

This is an exercise that makes sure each person has time to talk and feels that they are heard.  Use a small object (pen, refrigerator magnet, etc) to signal who the "talker" will be during this exercise.  

Whoever is holding the object will be the "talker" and the other person's role is the listener.  Before beginning, I would also suggest that you set a timer to make sure each person gets to share equally.  Start with five minutes per round and take turns holding the object and talking.

The listener's job again is to just listen.  Do not try to prepare your speech or your argument during this time.  If you are not the one holding the object, then you cannot talk, make comments, or defend your position.  You are simply to listen and when the time is up, you may spend your time explaining your point of view.

3.  Be careful of using "You" statements.  "I" statements are preferable.

"You always come home and throw your clothes on the floor."  "You never take out the trash."  "You are always coming home late from work."  Listen to the way these statements sound.  If they were said to you, wouldn't they put you in a defensive position?  Wouldn't you feel the need to defend yourself?

"I feel unappreciated when you throw your clothes on the floor.  It makes me feel like you are taking me for granted."  Do you see the difference in this statement versus the first set?  This statement also clarifies the speaker's feelings without attacking the other person.  Do you see how this is a more effective way to communicate?  Explain the situation from your perspective without putting your husband or wife on the defensive.  That will also help them to understand how you feel.  

4.  Talk about next steps

When you are in the middle of a disagreement, don't expect your spouse to totally jump on board with your side right away; however,  even after the first discussion you might decide to make changes.  

Accept responsibility.  When it comes to arguments, none of us are without blame.  Accept responsibility for your part and choose to work on reacting or behaving differently.  

Set another time to discuss.  If you feel that you may need more time to work on the issue or how you will change, set up another time to talk and use the above exercise to talk it through. 

Celebrate.  One of the things that rarely happens in marriage is celebrating small wins.  Maybe you did not come to any earth-shattering conclusions.  But maybe you were able to sit down and discuss the problem like civilized adults.  Treat yourself to a movie as a couple, or a fun night out.  

Keep after it.  Relationships are not easy.  They take work to develop, and make sure you encourage your spouse daily.  Look for the good in them and set up times to discuss issues as they arise, and you will be on your way to the strongest, healthiest marriage you've ever had!

And let me know how it goes!