Resolving conflict can be one of the biggest challenges in marriage. When it goes unresolved, conflict causes tension and builds a wall between husband and wife. When attempts at resolving conflict are unproductive or harsh, it can lead to resentment, discouragement, and an even bigger problem than you faced originally.
So, how can you resolve conflict successfully in your marriage? One way to start is to practice the R-E-S-T method.
R: Review the Problem
Too often, couples try to jump ahead to solving the problem even before they’ve clearly identified what the problem is.
So, sit down with your spouse and try to pinpoint the exact issue. While you’re doing this, use the drive-through communication method. Marriage expert Gary Smalley says it works the same way a drive-through window at a restaurant works.
One person at a time speaks, then the other repeats back what they heard. “Honey, I’m tired of the way you come home from work and immediately sit in front of the TV. It makes me feel like the TV is more important to you than I am.”
Then the other person repeats it back. “You said it bothers you when I come home and go right for the TV. It makes you feel unimportant.”
See how that works? 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 be accusing. Talk in feelings and facts only. Don’t give your opinions or assume you know how the other person is feeling. Just give your side.
Another thing… 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. Get beyond the smoke to the fire.
E: Evaluate Options
Now that you’ve nailed down the issue, discuss the different options for solving it.
Again, use the drive-through communication method. And don’t criticize the options by saying things like, “That will never work” or “Yeah, right!” Be as specific as you can. Don’t just say, “Spend less money.” Come up with solutions that can be applied.
Make it a real brainstorming session where you 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.
S: Solve the Problem
This is where you select an option and put it into action. During the selection process, be open to compromise. Remember, if things don’t work out, you’ll have a chance later to re-address 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.
You will use the drive-through communication method here too. 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 (and all marriages will have it) try to solve it by putting conflict to R-E-S-T.
Until next time,