Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Q.  My husband and I were both married before and we were both in very difficult marriages with a great deal of arguing and fighting. We want to be sure we don’t repeat that pattern again. We’ve just been married a few months and so far we’ve gotten along well. What can we do to avoid conflict in this marriage?

A. It is impossible to avoid conflict in a close relationship. However, you can learn to handle conflict so that it helps the relationship rather than hurting it. Avoiding conflict and keeping the peace at all costs doesn’t work. When we avoid conflict, issues are decided by not being decided. Avoidance of conflict also can cause hidden resentment if either person feels they’re giving in or aren’t being heard. 
Guide Lines
One tool that often helps couples resolve differences is to agree to ground rules in the way issues are discussed. The following guide lines will help.
1. Stick to one issue. If you’re upset about many issues, make a list of them and discuss them one at a time. Start with just one and stick to that issue.
2. Use “I statements” and good listening skills to understand each other’s point of view on the issue. For example, “I would like you to…” rather than “You never…” or “You always…”
3. Define the problem. For example, you may feel rejected because your husband is watching TV during much of his free time. He may view your comments about this as nagging and feel you don’t understand his need to relax after a hard day at work. To define the problem think about what it is you want from each other. Perhaps you need his undivided attention for a half hour each evening. Perhaps he needs time to unwind watching TV. Once the problem is defined it’s easier to go on to the solutions.
4. List all the possible solutions without censoring any. Use your creativity and imagination to come up with many solutions. We often see only two solutions - mine and yours. There are many solutions to most every problem.
5. Look at all the solutions and think about the pros and cons of each one. Is there one that will meet the needs of both of you - at least partially? 
The above guide lines take time, persistence and practice so don’t give up. 

Settling Decisions
Communication is helped also by knowing there are several ways decisions can be settled: by consensus, compromise, agree to disagree, and by policies. 

1. Consensus or agreement may be reached. Some decisions can be made by consensus after there is open communication. This may happen as a result of one partner becoming convinced the other one has a good idea. Agreement can also come about when a couple arrive at a new choice that both find pleasing.
2. Compromise may be reached. Compromise involves each partner giving a little to meet the needs of the other and each partner getting part of what they want.

3. You may agree to disagree. Some issues do not require agreement because they’re matters of personal preference. Couples may disagree about politics, for example.  Couples may enjoy debating these differences but it’s not necessary for agreement to be reached. We don’t have to think exactly alike on everything.
4. Policies can be established. It’s helpful for couples to agree on policies before problems begin. Most couples over time develop policies without writing them down. It’s even more helpful to write these policies down. For example, you might agree on a policy that one person’s needs takes precedence over the other person’s wants. This would mean that buying a washing machine comes before purchasing a boat. Or the need for a car takes precedence over new furniture.
Another policy might be that the one with the strongest preference makes the decision.  Couples can use a rating scale from 1-10 to tell each other how important a preference is. If one partner is an eight about eating at LaRosa’s and the other is a five for Applebee’s, the eight makes the decision. This works unless the same person always has stronger preferences than the other one.
A policy relating to chores might state that the partner who has the time or the partner who is most able will do the job. A related policy would state that the person who is expected to do the work will have the final say on how and when a job is done.
Couples might also adopt a policy that when they are away from their partner they can each do, say, and wear whatever they want. When they are together they will not do anything that bothers or embarrasses the other. Couples may also want to adopt policies about the use of money, handling children, in-laws, and their use of time.
Some times we can’t reach a decision; we aren’t ready to decide about an issue. Then we can agree to continue talking. Set a time and day to do this. If after several serious attempts to solve the issue you still are at an impasse, counseling can help. Also very helpful are marriage educational groups such as The Third Option and Marriage Enrichment.

“Arrogant know it alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.” Proverbs 13:10 The Message

You may have to draw straws when faced with a tough decision.” Proverbs 18:18 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

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