4 Tips for Better Conflict
Hello and welcome back to the blog and our beloved corner of the Internet my sweet Reader!
It is of course time for the mid-week listicle, and I'm happy today to be circling back to the topic of relationships with a focus on conflict.
Now, my husband and I of COURSE engage in conflict: all couples do! It's a natural part of relationship, and not even a bad thing. Conflict is a way for you to sort out friction in your marriage in order to attain a deeper level of intimacy. Ultimately, the problem isn't having conflict; it's how you RESPOND to the conflict.
I used to struggle with being too emotional or mouthy during a conflict, purposefully saying hurtful things instead of focusing on how to resolve the real issues. But since getting married and doing a lot of personal growth, I have come to a place that I am much prouder of, even though I'm not perfect.
So today, even though I'm just a little young wife, I wanted to share some tips and advice that I have learned from much older and wiser women, but also things that I've learned through trial and error.
1. Don't be passive aggressive
I can and probably should make an entire video about this topic, but passive aggression is one of the quickest ways you can kill the romance, trust, and respect within a marriage. Choosing to display yourself as passive, while actually feeling and acting aggressive will never get you where you need to be. Passive aggression is usually associated with a person who has trouble dealing with conflict, trouble with communicating their needs, and trouble with forgiving past hurts.
My rule to beat passive aggression in our marriage is this; if I have a problem that somehow involves my husband I can either get over it or TELL him. There is no in between! If the problem is not big enough for me to bring up, then I will get over it. If it is too big to get over, then I HAVE to tell him. No angry eyes across the room, no trying to make him feel guilty, no running to my friends to whine about him, and no expecting him to know what I want if I'm not verbally communicating it.
I know this might be easier said than done, but I promise you that once you give yourself the ultimatum to tell him or get over it, your life will improve. I used to be one of the MOST passive aggressive people, and I was able to overcome it. Remember that if you feel heated enough to deliver the silent treatment, then you should be a big girl and deliver the truth that you need to have a conversation.
2. Find a good time to talk
Honestly friends, the moment before you walk into a social situation is not the time to bring up a huge conflict or problem with your husband. It's not the time to bring it up when you are out with friends or in front of your kids, and it's not the time to bring it up if you have other responsibilities happening. There is a time and place for everything.
I think we often bring conflict up at bad times because we feel a toppling over of heavy emotion that causes us to impulsively open a wound or a new conflict right before we have to go do something else. We feel that our emotions just CANNOT get through a social event without causing a conflict or drawing attention to our relational problems immediately before.
But the truth is that the more we get a reign on our emotions, the better we will be at finding a good time to talk about things. I'm not saying that you need to tread lightly around your husband and avoid upsetting him, or that you need to allow him to put off conflict forever, but I do think that many of us could set the scene for conflict much better than we do.
When we find a proper and comfortable time to have a serious talk or conflict, we can often diffuse a lot of the external factors that contribute to excess emotion, hurt, and irrationality. When we don't speak at a good time, we exacerbate the stress of the situation, and potentially make things worse because of external factors like a time crunch, other people listening in, or heightened emotions.
Instead of bringing something up right before you walk into church, wait until a good time afterwards, or ask your husband when would be a good time to talk. Also, don't use this as an excuse to shoot eye-daggers at him over the dinner table. When you decide to put something off until a better time, it does not mean that you have to be passive aggressive or cruel until you get a chance to talk. You might not feel like being cozy, which is fine, but you don't need to go out of your way to be spiteful. We're adult women after all, and we should be able to avoid that immature behavior.
3. Keep things private
Now, I do think it's good to have a healthy level of exposure within your relationship: it's good to be real with your friends and to relate with others about problems or issues, but the key is to reveal these issues AFTER you had a chance to discuss them with your husband privately.
I think a good mentor, close friend, or confidant can often be helpful in figuring out what you should bring up, but I also think you need to tread lightly with what you expose to others about your husband and your relationship. It's very difficult for friends to wade through the mucky swamps of your relational conflict because they're not married to your husband! If they constantly hear you complain about him and talk about all the conflict you have, they're going to wonder why you're still together!
Try to talk well of your husband as much as possible, and save the intimate moments of your relationship for you two, not for you two AND all your girlfriends. My rule of thumb is that I will absolutely discuss the conflicts I have had with my husband, but only AFTER they are resolved, or AFTER I have brought it up with him already.
It's good to remember that we are not perfect, and there is no need to keep things private in order to preserve a good image. In fact, it can be helpful to our girlfriends or mentees to hear how we handled a conflict, so that we can give help advice to other wives! But it's still important to prioritize the intimacy and trust within your relationship, and so that your husband knows that you aren't rushing around willing to discuss his negative traits to anyone who will listen. In total, have discretion with what you share, and remember that your husband should be the first one to talk to when you have a marital problem.
4. Try to find a strain of logic
Now, most women are more communication, emotion, and relationally focused, and I say most, not all. But I see this in my own life in the sense that it can be difficult for me to remain emotionally calm during a conflict, or even during the lead-up to a conflict. I find myself getting more and more heated, and consequently, less and less rational.
Now, this dynamic can put a strain on relationships where you are dealing with a very logical husband and a very emotional wife (@my marriage). But what I've learned is that even if you are naturally emotional, it IS possible to become more rational.
I have found that by taking more time to formulate real rational arguments, and thoughts based on logic, I have had more success in getting my husband to understand my perspective in a conflict.
It's important for feelers to be able to draw logical threads in an argument, to show not just what they feel, but why they feel that way, how it happened, and how it could potentially be resolved. It's important to present a solution to your husband, so that he clearly knows what you expect or at least what could help you feel better.
Try to go into a conflict with a rational sense of what you want as your end goal; a peaceful and loving marriage. Remember that throwing hurtful words or past issues out in the middle of the ring during a conflict is a fast ticket to extra friction in your marriage, but a rational, focused approach to conflict can yield much better results.
I know it's not always easy to gain composure during an argument, but I do know that when I can keep my voice calm, my thoughts coherent, and my words respectful, our conflict is able to be resolved much quicker and MUCH better than when I allow my emotions to take the reigns.
In total, this all takes practice. It can be so tempting to lead with our hearts and to try to hurt our beloved ones because WE feel hurt. But I implore you to remember the end goal of conflict: deeper intimacy.
Conflict naturally arrises out of normal frictions in everyday life that can sometimes get between you two, and the process of arguing and sorting out issues is meant to draw you closer to one another, not farther apart. So try, with all your heart, to avoid saying or doing things that will lead to a deeper separation, instead of deeper intimacy.