At a lunch last week I heard a man speak about keeping “short accounts” with his wife – meaning they would talk about most everything that created disharmony in their relationship – even if it was simply an unkind or harsh tone of voice. Does that sound absurd? I hope not. It is probably one of the healthiest aspects of marriage if done well.
Here are 7 ideas to keep in mind:
1. Recognize conflict for what it is.
When I talk about the idea that we all have conflict, I fear that people get the wrong idea–like I am always referring to fighting and screaming. Well I certainly would define that as conflict, but I would add that conflict comes in many sizes and colors from yelling matches to “no fly zones” where topics aren’t even approached because they are too sensitive. Conflict is sometimes just felt as tension between a couple; or seen in the way one spouse looks at the other; or both just know it is present though you can’t put a finger on why. It is all conflict. Don’t be afraid to call it what it is–big or small there is some degree of conflict between you.
2. Acknowledge it to each other.
“I think we are in conflict, would you agree?” Sometimes Zerrin or I notice the tension or quiet between us and we don’t know if it is because of conflict or not. So we simply ask each other: “Are we OK? Is there conflict between us?”
3. Decide on a time to talk.
If either one or both says there is a problem, don’t put off talking about it. That only allows bitterness to grow and sets up the likelihood of it becoming a much larger problem before long. Seek to talk about it then or within 24 hours if at all possible.
4. Use an agreed upon discussion format to talk through the issue.
Most people know what NOT to do when in a conflict, but very few people know what TO do. If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know we teach a systematic method that maps out a plan to talk through conflict. We call it the PLEDGE Conflict Guide
. You can learn more HERE
. You can purchase a DVD
that explains the material. OR – BEST YET – you can can plan to attend one of our conferences
for the full training in the PLEDGE process! (We have two coming up in February!)
5. Get help if necessary.
If you fear you cannot talk about it in a healthy manner, get help. Take action NOW while there is a fire in the kitchen. Don’t wait until the entire house has burnt to the ground! Ask a Pastor or friend to mediate as you talk. Come see me if you are in the area, Skype with me if you’re not local
, or find a marriage counselor who will coach you through the process. Don’t risk your relationship getting worse by not getting help. We live in a generation where we are SO blessed with resources to help us in our marriages. Be one of the wise and courageous couples who avails themselves to those resources!
6. Reflect love.
Throughout your discussion, keep one question in mind: do you love the person in front of you? Do you truly
love him or her? If so, and I pray so, then resolve to talk to each other in a way that reflects that love. Don’t blast them with harsh words or tear them down as a person. Attack the problem, not the person you married!
(Click to tweet
) Be quick to hear and slow to anger. And be the first to humble yourself and ask forgiveness for even the least of wrongs done.
7. Make a plan!
Before the next conflict, like RIGHT NOW, read this blog with your spouse and agree together to do your best with each of the ideas presented!