Six Steps to Handle Marriage Conflict

8 12 2009

”Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal” Proverbs 12:18

Marriage conflict is normal, but it doesn’t have to be nasty. Most of us have patterns of speaking to our spouse that not only hurt the marriage, but create lasting wounds in our spouse. Kathy and I have found these six steps gave us wise guidelines to speak honestly and address issues in a way that would strengthen our marriage.

1. Define the Issue Clearly. Do you ever get into a fight and are not sure what the argument is about? If you are upset at your sex life, don’t complain about how they spend money. Clearly define the issue that you need to work on together.

2. State Your Feelings Directly: “In Situation X, When you do Y, I feel Z.” Instead of attacking each other by using “you …” statements, use this technique to express how their actions are affecting you. “Last Saturday, when you spent the whole day out with the guys, I felt unappreciated and unloved.” “ Last night, when you snapped at me when I walked in the door, I felt disrepected by you.” This formula takes time to learn, but will help you address issues without destroying each other in the process.

3.Reflect Back: “In situation X, when I do Y, It makes you feel Z.” Ninety-eight percent of good communication is listening. The point of reflective listening is to let your partner know that you have heard what they said and you understand where they are coming from.

4. Rate the Intensity of Your Feelings. Instead of using voice volume to tell them how intense your feelings are, rate how important (or unimportant) this issue is to you on a scale of 1-10.

5. Apologize: “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me for Y.The most powerful words in the English language are “I’m sorry.” Swallowing your pride has the ability to change the climate of the room. Confess BOTH your part of the issue and your reaction to the issue. “I’m sorry that I blew up/overreacted/said nothing/etc.”

6. Forgive: “I forgive you for Y.Don’t say “whatever or no big deal.” If it was a big deal to bring up, it’s a big deal to say “I forgive you.” Sit down face to face. Look your spouse in the eyes and say “I forgive you for Y”

In 18 years of marriage, Kathy and I are still growing in our relationship, but these six steps were critically helpful to improving our conflict resolution.


Speaking the Truth in Love (Part 1)

Speaking the Truth in Love (Part 2)

Ground Rules for Fighting Fair

Kathy & I. Conflict. Arbys.




One response

9 12 2009
Joanne Fetzer

Thanks for an insightful entry! My husband recently published a book that is a good resource for communicating in marriage and elsewhere. It’s called “Please Listen to Me! A Christian’s Guide to Reflective Listening.” An easy-read and how-to manual for becoming a reflective listener and listening with our hearts and with compassion. It’s available at various online stores or from the publisher at God bless & Merry Christmas!

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