Ah, one of the parts of any relationship that I do not think we talk about nearly enough – conflict resolution. In a world of social media, we seldom post the bad times in our lives or even share with friends. Coincidently it is something that all of us can relate to. At my bridal shower all of the attendants were asked to put their best marriage advice down on a piece of paper and the night before we got married I would read them. In my opinion, they were full of terrible advice and advice that I had never thought of before (someone remind me to talk more about this!). One piece of advice was to never share conflicts between you and your husband with anyone other than each other. This felt very 1950’s back when couples argued in their room, after the children had gone to sleep and only quietly. In my opinion this has lead to a generation that has a false sense of what a relationship is. Coupled with movies, when we do not share how we resolve conflict or respectfully communicate in the heat of a disagreement we teach our children that it is abnormal to argue and that it isn’t love. I want my daughter to know that even when her father and I argue, or when her and I argue there is never a doubt in her mind that I love her. The act of loving someone is not easy and arguments are common, but it’s how we handle these arguments that set healthy boundaries and reinforce respect.
My husband and I started dating in high school and although there were many downsides (like getting off the phone at 10!) one of the greatest things that came out of this foundation with my husband was communication. We do what we call “temperature checks” within our marriage every few months to see where we can support each other better and where we want to focus our priority as an individual and a family. It’s really beneficial for us and I’d highly recommend it if you have never done it before. In any relationship, conflict is going to come up but I think it’s healthy for us to talk about how we manage it and move past it. It’s interesting to note that people always compare a marriage to a team but all teams have a common goal – can you clearly define what your goal is as a couple? Your short term/long term goal? If not, try doing a temperature check!
I vividly remember in the start of our relationship talking about certain “rules” we would have when we argued. The 5 that we agreed upon were:
- Course of Action
- No Name Calling
- Sleep, Food and Air Conditioning to Reset
- 3 Reasons Why
- Unconditional is not just a word, it’s a verb
Just to jump right in, the very basis of all five rules is that in the event of conflict that we still respect each other. Sometimes arguments get so nasty that we stray away from rules (like wanting to call him a butt head) but these help keep the conflicts productive and respectful. All of these rules sound so simple, but in the event of passion and anger they keep us focused.
The first rule is that we try to never argue just for the sake of an argument. When we approach a topic that we know will get heated, we always have an end goal. If I am mad because his laundry has piled up in the bathroom for the last week, my course of action is that he needs to either put a hamper in the bathroom for him to use or that he needs to take off his clothes in our bedroom before he gets into the shower. This is just a very small example, but you see my point. We address each other’s issues and what we are going to do about them.
The second rule is that we do not name call. You wouldn’t call your boss at work all the names you want to, why would you feel it’s okay to call your spouse and partner names. It deflects from the issue on hand and any time names are being called people’s natural defenses build and the conversation is no longer productive. When you say something, you can’t take it back.
The third rule goes back to the marriage advice that we got at our bridal shower. I cannot tell you how many “never go to bed angry” messages I received from my attendants. We tried the “never go to bed angry” after our honeymoon and all we found it do was put this argument in a gigantic loop. Everyone has different triggers which cause them to be impatient and easily aggravated. For my husband, I know that it is him being hungry. If the man has not ate or his mind is on food – forget about anything that is said to him or what is said by him. Now that he and I both know that, he will tell me when he starts to get hungry and I am able to extend grace. Conversely, I am impatient and easily aggravated when I am tired. For other people, like my brother, I know that when he is hot all bets are off. If we are going through any of these triggers, the best thing we can do is sleep on it and if we wake up and it still bothers us (which 97% of the time it doesn’t) we address it. Basic human needs need to be handled first.
The next rule is what I affectionately call the “three reasons why.” As I mentioned previously, my Type A personality is a planner and when I make a decision I am often hardheaded to change my mind. During one of our temperature checks, my husband told me that he needed my support in attending different career training. My first reaction was anger and flashing before me of days spent away from home where I would be responsible for our family and household – alone. Sudden feelings of having to compete with a career suddenly turn off what he is saying and the conflict is no longer productive. So what we learned works for us, is to do our “three reasons why” we want to make a decision and as a wife I have had to learn that my way is not always the best way. It shows each other that this has been clearly thought out and allows each of you to address concerns appropriately. He told me he wanted to pursue this training because he felt like he was not confident with this part of his job, that this training would allow him the first step in pursuing a different department if he so chose (which would give him a more consistent schedule) and that by signing up rather than waiting for his boss to volun-told him would allow him the flexibility to pick which dates he would be gone. While it is never ideal for me to handle our responsibilities, alone I knew that he had given this thought and agreed.
The final rule is more of a reminder. When you say to each other you love each other unconditionally it is not just lovely language and I have found that being reminded of unconditional love at its purest is when it is most difficult to love. It is not an excuse to take advantage of a person, but rather a reminder that despite our disagreements and differences of opinion that we are a team. A team with a common goal. We may disagree and raise our voice or leave the room, but I never have to question if he will leave me because our love is unconditional.