Wouldn’t it be great to have a conflict-free marriage? Well, guess what. It’s not going to happen. But what can happen is you can learn to resolve conflict well.
Resolving conflict can be one of the biggest challenges in marriage. When it goes unresolved, a conflict more than likely will cause tension, resentment, discouragement, bitterness, and anger in your relationship. So how can you resolve conflict successfully in your marriage? One way is to practice the R-E-S-T method.
R: Review the Problem
Too often, couples try to jump ahead to solve the problem even before they’ve clearly identified what the problem is. As I shared in my How to Identify Your Real Marriage Issues podcast, make sure you identify the real issue: the fire, not the smoke around it. For example, your husband or wife explodes because you spent $50 on something they didn’t think you needed. It might look like money is the issue, but it could be that they’re feeling pressure at work and are afraid of losing their job and income. Or they really want to try to save money.
To get beyond the smoke to the fire, sit down with your spouse and try to pinpoint the exact issue. While you’re doing this, use the speaker/listener technique. Now, a couple of other important points. Keep things in the “I” as much as you can, instead of the “you.” Talk about how you feel and try not to accuse. Talk in feelings and facts only. Don’t give your opinions or assume you know how the other person is feeling or thinking.
E: Evaluate Options
Now that you’ve nailed down the issue, discuss the different options for solving it. Perhaps even write down the options together. Make it a real brainstorming session and just say whatever comes to mind. Talk through each option. There might be some bit of good in it, even if the entire option is not an exact fit.
Again, use the speaker/listener technique. And be sure not to criticize the options your spouse shares by saying things such as, “That will never work” or “Yeah, right!” And be as specific as you can. Don’t just say, “Spend less money.” Come up with solutions that can be applied.
S: Solve the Problem
Select one of the options you’ve discussed and put it into action. Remember, if things don’t work out with that option, you’ll have an opportunity later to readdress the issue and options.
T: Track Progress
This is a very important step. Don’t skip it. Set a specific time to sit down and talk about how your solution is working. You might want to do this three days—or perhaps two weeks—after you’ve started working on the problem. Try not to go much beyond that.
First, look at the option you chose and see if you’ve followed it. Then, see if it’s really helping to solve the problem. Don’t be discouraged if things haven’t gone perfectly. This is a process. Regroup and reassess if needed. Make adjustments. You might need to go back to identifying the problem or select another option. So the next time you experience conflict in your marriage, try to resolve it by putting it to R-E-S-T.