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Managing Conflict in Marriage

Managing conflict is a life skill we all need. It’s particularly important in a marriage. Over the course of living together for decades, conflict is bound to arise. How we confront and manage it will determine the joy and health of our marriage.

Here are some tips for dealing with conflict and teaching our grands by example:

Don’t pretend there’s never any conflict in your relationship. It’s not realistic and even children pick up on the deception at some point.

Address it tactfully and confidently. Yes, there’s a problem, but convey to both your spouse and Grands that disagreements are simply an area that needs attention to find a solution or compromise. It is healthy to talk about matters on which we have differing opinions. Out of disagreement, an unexpected solution can often flow.

Avoid fight or flight responses, if possible. Because most of us don’t enjoy conflict we slip into going full-blown angry or running away from the issue or relationship. Neither is a good response. Anger can damage relationships beyond repair and running can be the end of what might otherwise have become something beautiful.

Learn to step back and negotiate. Cooling off from an ugly disagreement can be a good thing. We think more clearly when we’re not in the midst of anger and emotional distress. Once we’ve settled and had some time to think through a disagreement, we can negotiate to find a resolution. Teach this to your grands by separating them when they disagree, then bringing them back together to talk things over. Let them know this is how you and your spouse handle serious disagreements.

Find counselors, if necessary. What if conflict rises to the level of needing professional help? Maybe it’s a single issue or serious marital issues that have come to the surface after our children are grown. We need to give ourselves permission to seek help when we need it. Help may be found in a variety of places. Many churches have marital counseling with either lay or professional counselors. Almost every community has psychologists and counselors who specialize in couples or family counseling. Explore and find a situation where you feel comfortable enough to engage with others and find methods of talking about, managing, and resolving conflict.

One of the most powerful sources I’ve ever found for putting conflict in perspective is Peacemaker Ministries. They have a variety of resources but one of my favorites is a simple brochure found here. This excellent tool helps an individual explore a conflict from different angles including what’s going on internally and how we might be misconstruing the situation in the first place. At times I’ve been angry with a situation or person, I’ve read through this brochure and evaluated my feelings. Sometimes, I find that I’m viewing things wrongly. Other times, I get insight about how to approach the other person in a way that I can understand their point of view and truly work toward reconciliation.

Learning to manage conflict over the course of a long marriage is a great blessing. It helps promote lasting relationships and deepens them at the same time. Confidence, trust, hope, and love flourish when it’s safe to confront conflict and resolve it. It may not be easy to disagree and talk about it, but only through this process can we truly mature into a successful, long-term relationship that shines more brightly even as we age.


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