Protecting Your Relationship during Conflict
As sure as death and taxes, you can count on the fact that all couples will experience conflict. Since we can know with relative certainty that disagreements are going to occur, it would be in our best interest to learn how to manage disagreements in a constructive manner. Just like the Geneva Convention helps countries to fight "fair" while at war, having written rules can aid couples as they engage in the "battles" of marital life.
If you can agree on rules before you're in the throes of an argument, you can avoid getting caught up in emotional aspects of the discussion. They provide guidelines for what is in bounds and what is out, who can speak when and in what way, and how both will listen to the other. Rules do not remove the emotions or solve the problem; instead, they make the disagreement manageable by setting the stage for constructive communication. Finally, rules allow the real issues to be uncovered much faster. So here are a few things we suggest to keep in mind to protect your relationship during a conflict.
Let this be your goal in conflict. Remember in all of your words and actions to honor your spouse.
2. Time, Place and Time Out
Select an appropriate time and place. In the middle of a grocery store or at 10pm may not be the best place or time to address your issues. While you can't always control when conflict will occur, you can decide not to continue a discussion that you know is headed for an argument. Likewise, sometimes it's necessary to take a break to cool off. However, remember to finish the discussion once you're both level headed.
This action involves speaking and listening; they work together. To take communication a step further, say things that reflect you're listening. Asking questions or repeating what you've heard show that you understand what the other person is saying and how they feel.
Agree upon a "win-win" solution where the needs of both sides are met. If it is a need avoid compromising. Techniques like brainstorming, pros v. cons list, and 1-10 scale of importance are helpful.
There are two aspects to protecting the relationship—protecting from external threats and internal threats. To protect from external threats, have the discernment to know when to spend time with friends and when to stay in. To protect against internal threats, forgive each other and be responsible for your actions. Don't let resentment or mistrust build between you.