Tips on how to “fight” well in your marriage
Okay so this is a BIG topic and trust me when I say that I have not perfected the art of productive conflict resolution by any means! Just ask my hubby…
But it’s something I am always working on, and striving towards. After all I want a healthy, thriving and happy marriage. As I am sure you do too!
Here are a few myths we must first face before we can kick butt at resolution conflict.
MYTH ONE: There is this common misconception that when you get married all the problems you have as a couple will suddenly disappear and you will never disagree because the spell of saying “I do” has turned you both into doting, doe-eyed lovebirds living in your perfect little love bubble. WRONG! Sorry to burst anyones bubble, but marriage doesn’t change the fact you are still two individual people with individual thought processes, opinions, views and expectations… Am I right?
MYTH TWO: Conflict is BAD! Conflict isn’t bad you guys. It’s an inevitable part of being human and doing relationships with other imperfect humans. In fact, I would say conflict is an opportunity to open your capacity and self awareness, and evolve into the kind of person that is able to face situations and relationships that you otherwise may not have been able to in the past.
MYTH THREE: Fighting/disagreeing with each other means you are failing in your marriage. WRONG again! We fear conflict mostly because it’s uncomfortable, and yes painful at times. It’s a space of allowing yourself to feel some deeply confronting emotions and depending on how you were raised, conflict literally makes you want to run a thousand miles in the opposite direction. Or perhaps the moment you sniff a conflict you whip out your num chucks and are ready to smack down. These responses, as I’m sure you are familiar with, are called 'fight or flight’ responses.
The key here is shaking off some of those myths, unlearning some unhelpful behaviours and mindsets, and being willing to learn new ways of thinking, feeling and communicating. So let’s get to the good stuff!
I think its import to acknowledge that conflict is scary and if your perception of conflict is marred by painful memories from childhood or previous unhealthy relationships, then like myself, you may feel threatened, powerless and even traumatised. If this is you, be kind to yourself and know that this is a process not a final destination…
Where do we start?
ACKNOWLEDGE your need to grow, change and improve the way you see and feel about conflict. It’s all about admitting you may not have it right, and perhaps not all failed relationships were the ‘other’ persons fault. Realising that conflict takes two people, BUT only needs one to repair a damaged situation. Having a willing and teachable heart is ABSOLUTELY imperative. It’s not something that can be perfected overnight but thats not the point. Remember it’s a journey you’re on together.
OWN YOUR SHIT - in the wise words of Kendrick Lamar, “be humble, sit down.” This was a game changer for me guys! The revelation of taking responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings and actions, instead of projecting the blame onto my spouse and learning to manage my own feelings and behaviours while allowing my spouse the freedom to do the same. The reality is we gotta let go of feeling the need to control how our spouse reacts. In truth, we only really have control of our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which kinda sucks when it feels so good to be self-righteous and right all the time! In other words, STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM, and own your shiz!
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS - A lot of becoming good at conflict resolution actually means focusing on YOU. It also requires becoming like Ghandi at identifying emotions that make you feel unsafe, or threatened. Being able to regulate your emotions and find ways of managing your stress levels during a conflict is super important! There is no way you will be able to cope with conflict if you’re feeling unsafe.
WARNING: If your spouse is physically, emotionally or sexually abusive then the problem is much greater. Safety first! Remove yourself from that environment and please seek help and CALL 1800RESPECT https://www.1800respect.org.au
LISTEN - It’s pretty basic, but listening and genuinely paying attention to the feelings being expressed by your spouse without immediately becoming defensive and aggressive will make a huge difference. A lot of the time our spouse just wants to feel heard and respected even if you don’t necessarily agree with their point of view. Your desire to love and respect your spouse has to trump your ego and need to be right or ‘win’ an argument.
Overall the ability to successfully resolving conflict depends on YOUR ability to to manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm, controlling your emotions and behaviour, paying attention to the feelings being expressed by your significant other, and lastly being aware and respectful of your differences.
To finish up here are some examples of healthy vs. unhealthy ways of managing and resolving conflict.
An inability to recognise and respond to the things that matter to the other person.
Explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions.
The withdrawal of love, resulting in rejection, isolation, shaming, and fear of abandonment
An inability to compromise or see the other person’s side.
Feeling fearful or avoiding conflict; expecting a bad outcome
The capacity to empathize with the other person’s viewpoint
Calm, non-defensive, and respectful reactions
A readiness to forgive and forget, and to move past the conflict without holding resentments or anger.
The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing.
A belief that facing conflict head on is the best thing for both sides.
Humans are Messy
Okay, its a little harsh but mostly true. Living a thriving life of intimacy, joy and fulfilling marriage involves also having to face the hard stuff. Conflict is a part of that. Not gonna lie, it sucks, and its painful at times, but mostly it means we really have to examine our own hearts and be willing to get rid of the gunk that makes us unable to love, understand and show others compassion. Don’t stress, I’m preaching to myself here as well! It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve found the most powerful and healing moments that have strengthened my marriage is when I didn’t let my feelings govern how I viewed my husband. Being able to see who your spouse as who they were made to be, beyond your own perception of them, means you will learn to forgive and apologise so much easier.
I am confident that if you’re able to ‘fight right’ your marriage will kick butt! I really hope that this info was helpful to you and if you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to ask!