Every marriage has conflict, even mine, where Sherry and I have never fought or raised our voices to each other in 42 years of marriage. We just do conflict in different ways. So what are some basic steps for resolving conflict? The key is to work for partnership in problem solving rather than going into argument to win. The problem is the issue, not the spouse.
Attitude is everything. Throughout this process both spouses should be thinking â€œWhat can I give to my spouse?â€ In arguments, it is how can I win my point. When it is right, then our value and goal is the relationship before the issue.
Commitments as you begin the discussion (from Ephesians 5:22-32; 1 Peter 3:1-7):
Husband: I agree to give myself to my wife as Christ gave himself for the church. Wife: I agree to submit to my husband as unto the lord.
Time outs are to be used for contemplating how to understand each other better (NOT to work on a stronger defense case because that is what happens in arguments).
1. Husband listens to wife
a. Husbandâ€™s job is to understand wife (see example of Jesus in the garden at Gethsemane Luke 22:42) by helping her state her case (an active role) remaining engaged, listening non-defensively, asking questions for understanding (not for personal agenda or to make jabs).
b. Wifeâ€™s job is to express her wants/feelings with trust in a non-attacking way (to speak honestly but not to overpower or persuade husband to agreement).
c. Husband is to stay with wife with respect (1Peter 3:7) and paraphrase to check for clarity/accuracy of understanding what wife has said. (NOTE: the goal is for the wife to feel heard, understood and cared for by his attentiveness, conduct and understanding).
d. Wife is to speak with a gentle and quiet spirit showing respect for her husband not letting herself give way to fear (1 Peter 3:1-6) (NOTE: the goal is for the husband to feel her submissive spirit, that she genuinely cares for his best as she expresses her feeling and desires).
Sometimes at this point, issues will be resolved simply by husbandâ€™s clear understanding of wife. If that is the case, â€œhoorayâ€ and the matter is resolved.
2. Wife listens to husband if the issue remains unresolved, and the roles reverse (all with the same motives, attitudes, conduct, etc.) including additional new instructions.
a. Wife seeks to understand husband without being pushy or critical.
b. Husband states his case, offers his thoughts (including those that are incomplete) and his feelings, and avoids sarcasm and stonewalling.
c. Wife paraphrases and seeks confirmation of understanding.
d. Husband speaks with a respectful and considerate tone.
Sometimes at this point, issues will be resolved when wife understands husbandâ€™s perspective. If so, â€œhoorayâ€ and the matter is resolved.
3. Find all areas/aspects of common ground and list them. Both are looking for areas where he/she can move toward the other as they explore the options together is a spirit of love and respect rather than defensiveness or self-protectiveness.
4. If things are still at an impasse and the decision needs to be made, the husband makes recommendation/decision, expressing it with respect and honor and sadness that the process could not achieve resolution, taking responsibility for the decision. The wife submits gently and respectfully and gives her support to her husband. The limitation on her submission is if it were to be directly contrary to Godâ€™s scriptural command. If this happens, then they will need to get help from a wise Christian.