Maybe you grew up in a loving home with parents who never fought. Or maybe you saw fighting all the time. Maybe it was TV shows with married couples that gave you ideas of what conflict looks like. Perhaps you think the couples who never argue have the healthiest relationships.
Conflict is bound to happen in your marriage. But what matters is how you handle it. If you learn to handle conflict well, you can grow closer. Sadly, many couples never learn how to deal with issues. They live their lives in a constant stream of unhealthy conflict resolution. Get to know these 3 really bad ways to resolve conflict so you don’t repeat them in your marriage.
1. Give it time.
If you want to heal a physical injury, time often helps. But for the most serious injuries, it’s not just time that heals. You need everything from surgeries to rehabilitation to ongoing care and conditioning. It’s no different with conflict. If you think just giving it time and doing nothing else will resolve a conflict, it—like a serious injury—will only get worse.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” When there’s conflict between two people, waiting to address it rarely helps. So when conflict arises, it’s a time for confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness to restore the relationship. It’s an opportunity to confront unhealthy attitudes and behavior. Whether it’s your fault or your spouse’s, be the one who initiates the conversation about the conflict rather than simply letting time pass. Until you find a resolution, the conflict will fester, grow, and rear its ugly head again.
2. Pretend it doesn’t exist.
Of all the bad ways to resolve conflict, avoiding it may be the one to anger your spouse the most. Imagine having conflict but then pretending all is well for days, weeks, or months. This might be easier for a time, but this doesn’t create a real, connected relationship. Pretending nothing bothers you—or pretending that nothing bothers your spouse—is only going to disconnect you.
Instead of acting like there’s no conflict in your relationship, acknowledge it. And be clear about your desire to resolve it. With busy schedules, this may mean deciding on a time when it’s best to deal with the issue. The point is not to let things go but to see to it that both spouses feel cared for and listened to—and for both to become adaptable. I’m convinced that many marriages fail because couples stop addressing issues. Over time, the ignored issues stack up and ultimately reach a seemingly insurmountable point.
3. Punish your spouse until he or she changes.
When a spouse is in the wrong, many of us will “help” him or her see the error of his or her ways. Some spouses even make each other pay by using punishment. But spouses aren’t supposed to punish each other. This may be the easiest way to try to handle conflict, but if you’re using the silent treatment, yelling, name-calling, or even leaving during arguments, you won’t resolve conflict—you’ll prolong it.
If you’re using the silent treatment, yelling, name-calling, or even leaving during arguments, you won’t resolve conflict—you’ll prolong it.
If this is your way of handling conflict, know the ways you can communicate better. Work to be a good listener, speak the truth in love, always be respectful, and be clear in your communication and desires. Resolving conflict takes practice and experience. And it isn’t easy. But it’s worthwhile.
What are some other bad ways to resolve conflict? Share in a comment.