How did your parents resolve conflict?
Oftentimes, we “learn” conflict management from our parents.
If it was poor or we had absentee parents, we are at high risk for repeating these behaviors.
Not only that, but we also absorb the expectations of our spouses from our parents.
This is regardless of what we truly want in our relationship or if the expectations are fair or realistic.
If we don’t reflect on how our parents’ relationship affected us, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
For example, your father had an expectation that your mother is the sole cook of the home.
Your mother met that expectation daily with home-cooked meals.
Your wife is not meeting that expectation, which makes you very disappointed and leads to conflict. Shortcode
But your mother was a stay-at-home mom while your wife is a working woman, which you prefer.
How did your parents’ experience affect the expectations of your marriage? Is it a fair expectation?
What conflict is resulting, and how can their conflict be respectfully compromised?
Does the intensity of the issue match the intensity of emotion you experience?
Here’s another example: You place your cell phone charger on the kitchen table and leave it there.
When you come back 2 hours later to grab it, you can’t find it. You spend 10 minutes looking for it and increase in frustration.
Eventually, your husband walks into the room and asks what you’re looking for. You exclaim that your charger is missing.
Your husband says “Oh, I moved it back to the bedroom, where it usually is.”
Now, a conflict ensues, and you find yourselves in a heated argument over…a phone charger?
From the outside, it may seem that the phone charger is the issue, but a missing charger does not inevitably mean conflict.
So the question is, what are the underlying issues hiding behind the conflict?
If these are not understood or managed, they fester. Then, seemingly small things like a missing phone charger led them to erupt out of nowhere.
This leaves the other partner feeling unsafe, like they’re walking on eggshells. It diminishes the quality of the relationship and the respect between spouses.
Only the person who is angry can do this reflection on their own.
In fact, as difficult as it may be, it is better to step back when you feel like confronting your spouse about any subject and ask questions, like “Why does this matter to me so much?” and “Why do I feel angry/saddened/disappointed/frustrated about this?”Shortcode
For the phone charger, it might be as simple as the wife was having a rough day, and losing her phone charger led her to release the tension she was holding back.
It may be out of character for her, and a simple apology may be all that’s needed with little to no damage to her relationship.
Or it may be that this is a frequent occurrence, and she feels like her property is not respected.
Maybe there are other conflicts she has not felt capable of bringing to her husband’s attention, and that leads to constant frustration, which was expressed by proxy of a missing phone charger.
What are you willing to let go of?
Part of maintaining a satisfying and happy relationship is being forgiving and merciful enough to just let certain things go.
Oftentimes, we’ll find that if we hold off on bringing up an issue that bothered us for 24 hours, it may not be so bothersome anymore.
If we are willing to step back and do the aforementioned reflection to understand what the underlying reasons for your negative feelings are, you may find you are projecting onto your spouse something that isn’t actually their fault.
Some conflicts may have more to do with you than with your spouse.
That is not to say, “Don’t ever create conflict.” It’s inevitable.
But, pick and choose your battles based on what will make your relationship more wholesome. Within this principle, you can find ways to respect the other person’s autonomy.
Remember, they are someone with habits, beliefs, and experiences, and they can’t change everything to fit your preference. Marriage is truly a give-and-take.
Learn self-regulation techniques
Self-regulation is the art of keeping yourself from moving into fight-or-flight territory.
To figure out what tactics are best for you, analyze what you did in a conflict that went wrong. Then choose self-regulation techniques that help with that.
For example, self-regulation may include asking for a break and coming back to the conflict later.
It may require you to write out your feelings instead of saying them so you can review them first.
Deep breathing, hugging or holding your spouse while speaking, using affirmations, and “I” statements are all part of self-regulation.
Conflict resolution has more elements, such as how to bring up topics, how to communicate your experiences, and the art of compromise.
But, it all starts with you and what part you play in your conflicts.
Even if your spouse is not yet on board, working on these tactics can help improve your relationship significantly.
The article is from our archives.