James 1:19-20 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
It doesn’t produce the righteousness of God, it just doesn’t, but many times I find that although I’m quick to hear (in actual fact, no one has to speak, I just divinely hear things), I am certainly not slow to speak and most definitely not slow to anger. Earlier in my marriage our fights were explosive because I would bottle up my feelings for an extended period of time and then something as little as a look could get me into such a place of anger that I would end up exchanging really mean words with my husband. Then I decided, I wouldn’t bottle up my feelings anymore, I would speak my mind so there wasn’t a build up of emotions that would burst forth like a broken dam but that didn’t really help matters, we just fought more often. A few months into our marriage, we made a decision to attend HTB Marriage Course and learnt a lot, most importantly how to deal with conflict. I will summarise what I learned about conflict resolution.
1) Whoever has an issue should bring it up… and at a good time.
Please don’t wake your hubby up in the middle of the night to talk about anything. Don’t waylay him once you or he get in from work either, you are both probably too tired at that time and nothing good can come of it. Don’t tackle things when you have had a bad day or late at night or when you are hungry. My husband gets frustrated with me sometimes but I just can’t engage in any serious discussion at night. I tell him my brain is mush, he rolls his eyes.
If you are tired or hungry or just not in the mood to have a serious discussion, be sure to let your spouse know that you are not ready but more importantly tell your spouse when you will be ready. It can’t be an indefinite period. “I just need some space, I’ll let you know when I can talk” and then a week goes by. It’s not right to keep your spouse waiting for an extended period of time just because you are angry or even worse, decide to keep malice. “Please give me a few hours while I cool off and we can discuss this, for now can we talk about something else?” Don’t blank out your spouse. Your love for one another should be secure and stable and issues should be set apart from you while you lovingly deal with them together. Its not easy, no one ever said it would be but it does get easier if only couples would stay consistent.
2) Attend to one issue at a time.
Lets not be funny now. “I’m not happy with the way you spoke to me yesterday.”
“You don’t like it? What about the time you yelled at me? You do it all the time!”
Er no. You snooze, you lose. Ok you don’t lose anything really but park your own issues for another day and time. Also remember that the issue is an issue to be tackled together as a couple and this is not a time for character assasination.
3) Listen with sincerity and empathy.
You made vows to love and cherish each other. If your child came to you with a problem, you would listen and process what he was saying. Somehow we find it difficult to hear our spouses. We become extremely proud and defensive. “After all you are a worse human than I am. How dare you tell me about myself.” “Pull that heavy log out of your own eye before you speak to me”…and for added drama, shake the neck a little. Its all about pride really. It actually doesn’t take anything away from you to acknowledge your spouses hurt and empathise with the way they feel, in fact it probably increases all those lovey dovey feelings we would like to feel all the time. Try not to talk over one another (I haven’t mastered this bit yet to be totally honest. I think I need a muffler.)
4) Repeat what you just heard in your own words.
Sometimes we listen but we hear something completely different.
“I called you 3 times”
“I have no missed calls, you couldn’t have called this number”
“So am I lying?”
It’s really freaky how we interpret what we hear. The suggestion by the marriage counsellors, Nicky and Sila Lee at the Marriage Course was to repeat what you heard so you and your spouse are on the same page. Don’t let the crazy filters allow you to hear things that are untrue. The goal is to solve the issue not to make it worse.
5) Take ownership of any wrong or hurt you have caused.
Don’t take things personal, your spouse is trying to reach out to you from a very vulnerable place. It’s easy to get hurt because your spouse is hurt that you treated them in what they feel is a hurtful way. You may not have been intentional in creating the issue or you may feel justified in the way you acted, but listen closely…this is not about you! Not today. When you have an issue, feel free to start from my first point, and bring it up. Don’t be dismissive and try not to make light of the situation or make fun of your spouse. Acknowledge their hurt and if required, apologise. No one ever died from saying “Im sorry.”
6) Discuss possible solutions to the issue.
You are two different people so you see things in a different way but are solutions to every issue. Make a list of solutions and choose one to see if it works. You can try different combinations till you find one that works for both of you. Determine to make things right and acknowledge when you repeat the behaviour or pattern your spouse pointed out. All they need to know and see is that you are woking towards the desired goal.
What happens if things are not working? If you can’t come to an agreement, see an expert on the issue or your mentors. There’s no shame in seeking professional help. Find out about marriage counselling in your area and invest in your marriage.
Our older married friends (I’d like to think of them as our mentors) once told us, “Always remember that you are a team.” You are a threefold cord with Christ as the head. Thats a strong union and everything else is outside that cord. It’s tempting and quite easy to see your spouse as the enemy but if you come together and look at the issue as being something before you and not something between you, you can start to work at removing the obstacles in your way of being a happy couple living in peace.
Do you and your spouse resolve conflicts with ease. What other tips can you share that works for you?
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