As mentioned in the past post on Conflict in Marriage, all married couples are bound to have disagreements and conflicts from time to time, and they can absolutely be a healthy part of a loving relationship. Though uncomfortable for the moment, conflicts certainly help us learn more about one another and grow closer together in the end if we allow them to do so.
We are probably more likely to miss out on the potential blessings that conflict can bring when we come to them with wrong or uncontrolled thoughts and emotions. Getting our hearts and minds in the right place during a conflict can do much to help us work through the matter in a Christ-like way, but we still have to be sure we keep our words and actions in check while hashing things out with our husbands.
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of something with your husband, thinking that you had your heart and mind in the right place, only to be suddenly upset by something said or done before everything is resolved? Maybe something was phrased in a way that you found offensive, or maybe an apology wasn’t given when you wanted to hear one? I’m sure we all have! Though we’ve perhaps made efforts to think the right thoughts and pray through strong emotions beforehand, things can happen during a conflict that really get our feathers ruffled.
During times like these, we all face real the real challenge of keeping our words and actions in check. It can be so, so, so easy to act out in a way that is motivated by hurt, anger, or disappointment when working through a marital conflict! Storming out of the room, slamming a door, raising our voice, or saying something hurtful will likely escalate matters and cause us to regret our words or actions later should we take the time to reflect on them. Our husbands are likely to feel disrespected, making it harder for them to work at better understanding us.
I’ve personally needed to retrain myself to respond to my husband in a respectful way with my words and actions while we are in the middle of a conflict and I’m feeling upset. I doubt it is natural for many, if any, of us to remain calm and gentle during conflict! I still see many areas where I can improve, and I trust that God will continue to help me make those positive changes.
What have I needed to learn when it comes to my words and actions during conflict?
- Be slow to speak and quick to listen: Rather than planning the next thing I want to say, I have to make efforts to really listen to my husband’s point of view. What he has to share is important, and if I pay attention, I may learn something about the situation that I was unaware of, or perhaps better understand him as a person. When it’s my turn to share, I need to be careful that I don’t speak too rashly.
- Ask questions to clarify: I’ve found it so helpful to ask my husband questions about his own explanations so that I can get a better idea of his perspective. Even if I still see things differently, it helps to understand his view!
- Keep a calm and gentle tone: This is obviously a piece of wisdom that is easier said than done, and one area where I still have much room for improvement. I was really struck by this thought from The Excellent Wife when Martha Peace shares that having an upset, angry, or overly emotional tone and attitude about us makes it harder for our husbands to respond to what we are saying, and more likely to respond to how we are going about saying it.
- Avoid childlike outbursts: Have you ever, while very upset, done something that you would punish your children for if they were to do? I wish I could say that I haven’t! When I feel like I’m about to have an outburst in word or actions that I rationally know will not help our situation, I have to remind myself that I have a choice to act upon those feelings or get them under control.
- Be mindful of body language and facial expressions: Sitting or standing with my arms crossed over my chest and my head cocked to the side doesn’t exactly express an open and listening attitude. I may not be smiling and nodding during a challenging discussion, but simply making eye contact and keeping a calm(er) expression can do much to facilitate our discussion.
- Be quick to apologize when my words or actions were out of line: My cause may be just and my hurt may be genuine, but nothing gives me license to speak or act in a way that is disrespectful or hurtful. I’ve had to apologize to my husband in the past for my disrespectful reactions to things that I found hurtful before even bringing up the offense to him.
- If you’re too tired, finish resolving the conflict the next day: I know the old adage says “Never go to bed angry,” but I’ve found in our marriage that sometimes we are just too tired to really put our thoughts together and resolve an issue between us. If we both agree that it would be better to pick things back up in the morning, we are able to make sure our words and actions aren’t motivated by sleepy grumpiness. We aren’t necessarily going to be angry; we are giving ourselves time to rest, pray, and think so that we can better work through the issue.
There are certainly more bits of wisdom and advice that could be added here. If you have some to share, I’d love for you to comment!