Marriage can be wonderful, but it is not without its share of turmoil. Every married couple encounters conflict and disagreement along the way. Plus, there are outside influences which can also increase the stress load within marriage.
The most common culprits causing marital problems include money issues, different parenting styles, clashes with in-laws, and religion. These factors and others can contribute to the rising stress levels in a marriage, and could potentially result in divorce.
But while every marriage deals with these potential conflicts, not every marriage ends in divorce. Here are five principles for resolving conflict and building a prevailing marriage.
1. Consistently show respect for each other, even when you disagree.
Within a marriage relationship, spouses lower their guards and reveal more of who they really are. This is healthy, and the relationship can greatly benefit from honesty and vulnerability. However, with the increased familiarity comes the potential for unguarded attacks. Couples often say harsh and hurtful words to each other, which they would never say to anyone else.
Disagreements are inevitable, and by working through them your marriage can become stronger. But be careful not to disrespect each other by throwing insults or embarking on personal attacks, as these can create barriers in your relationship.
2. Learn to communicate with each other.
According to the American Counseling Association, fifty per cent of divorces result from a lack of communication. So it is vital that you communicate with your spouse, preferably in a way that does not include nagging or sarcasm. Instead of speaking in terms accusing them of what they have done, speak in terms of how you feel.
Communication requires both talking and listening. When your spouse is speaking, pay attention to what he or she is saying. It may help to repeat what you hear in your own words. If you are uncertain of what is meant, ask for clarification. This is especially important when dealing with sensitive issues, as misunderstandings can lead to more severe conflict.
Pay attention to non-verbal communication, too. Albert Moravin, a researcher at UCLA, has determined that we communicate seven per cent of our feelings through words, thirty-eight per cent through our tone of voice, and fifty-five per cent through body language, including such things as facial expressions, eye contact, and posture.
By learning to communicate, you may be able to avoid some conflicts completely. When you do encounter conflict, good communication skills will help you find a resolution.
3. Invest time in your relationship.
Time is a commodity that does not replenish itself. Once you give away your time, that time is gone. So when you give your time to your spouse, you are letting them know how valuable they are to you.
It can be difficult for couples today to make time with each other a priority. Especially if one or both spouses work on rotating shifts, it can seem as if you are ships passing in the night. Time together can be hard to come by.
But a prolonged period without quality time together will erode your marriage. That is why you must create time together. Perhaps designate a weekly “date night” which you guard with a passion. Or schedule semi-annual trips together, even if only for a weekend. Leave your work at home and enjoy the time together.
4. Settle disputes instead of waiting for them to “blow over.”
There is wisdom in the old adage, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26, NLT). Anger can quickly turn into resentment and bitterness, so be proactive in resolving your differences.
At the same time, allow for a brief cooling down period when confronting an issue. When you are both coming from a position of animosity and you are ready to attack, it is unlikely that your time will be productive. So take the proverbial walk around the block, allow the aggressive impulses to pass, and then come together to discuss the dispute.
5. Focus on resolving the problem rather than attacking your spouse.
In heated disputes, couples will often point fingers and cast blame at each other. This only serves to escalate the problem and places all the responsibility on your spouse. This in turn puts your spouse on the defensive, and you are left in a no-win situation. Instead of attacking the person, attack the problem. Approach the problem as a team rather than as adversaries.
Also, admit your own responsibility for the problem rather than placing the fault entirely on your spouse. By acknowledging your own responsibility, you can create a willingness to work together toward a solution.
Your marriage is worth protecting. Yes, conflicts are inevitable. But together with your spouse, you can overcome them. You can preserve your marriage and even strengthen it by following these five principles.