Dear Want Some Peace, I
am glad you said that you want to know how to manage conflicts better because we
cannot avoid all conflicts. Some conflicts can be prevented, and others just
occur in the natural course of life. There are two ingredients that make
conflicts what they really are: anger and selfishness. In marriage, conflicts
often mean anger—hot or cold.
HOT AND COLD ANGER
"Hot anger can be described like this: In the first year of marriage,
the husband speaks and the wife listens. In the second year of marriage, the
wife speaks and the husband listens. In the third year of marriage, both speak
and the neighbors listen!" (Caring for Marriage, 1990) This is hot anger;
it is excited and often cruel. It is loud and frequently crushing. With hot
anger you do have some idea what the other person is thinking. It isn’t
accurate, but there may be some consolation that we care enough to be angry.
Cold anger, on the other hand, is like an iceberg. We can see only the tip of
it, and we have no idea what’s underneath. "It can be devastating
silence, coldness, strangers living under the same roof. . . Cold anger can take
another form. It can become what we like to call being "an angelic
phony"--- a covered up courtesy that is full of pretense and deception. It
says, "No dear . . . Yes dear . . . Anything you’d like dear." But
behind the seemingly sweet words is the spirit of coldness, where feelings have
been anesthetized, or worse extinguished" (Ibid).
Dealing with anger is the fist step in solving conflicts in a relationship.
We must accept the ownership of our anger, our feelings. Only when we do accept
its ownership can we be free to choose what we will do with our anger. We choose
to be angry or, we can choose to be loving, kind, and responsive. Here are key
Biblical verses to ponder: "Better be slow to anger than a fighter. Better
govern one’s temper than capture a city." (Proverbs 16:32 NEB) "Be
not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools
(Eccl 7:9). Unless we deal with our anger we will be in great trouble. It is
important to remember that unresolved anger is stored. It closes channels to
communication. "Today’s anger becomes tomorrow’s resentment, and
resentment becomes bitterness."
There are skills that help in solving conflicts, but far more basic is
attitude. If you are truly honest, dear friend, about your search for peace, one
important thing you must do to solve conflicts is to begin to think things
through. Conflict often has set patterns, and we need to ask ourselves,
"Why do we fight?" Is it to clear the air? Is it because we have short
tempers? Is it because the other person usually starts it? Is it because the
pressure builds up from storing problems over a period of time? Is it because we
are so different and don’t think alike? Or is it because you want attention,
and this is the only way you can get it." Think it through.
Do you realize that some conflicts would go out the window if we didn’t
take life so seriously. There are times when we need to be able to laugh at
ourselves, and with each other. "The difference between happy and
unhappy couples is not how many conflicts they have, how many differences they
must resolve, but how they handle them."
Remember, that regardless how close you put your heads together, you will
never see things precisely the same way as your spouse. We are humans, and we
are married to humans. We have our own ideas of marriage, life, money,
sexuality, religion, and parenting.
STEPS IN CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
1) Deal with issues, grievances, and potential conflict situations as they
occur. More damage is done when we procrastinate and let things build up
inside. However, do not cause unnecessary embarrassment by trying to deal with
the problem with your partner in the presence of friends or family. Chose the
earliest appropriate time in private.
2) Listen and share. It is important to listen to each other’s point
of view. Be open to change. Value the other persons’ thoughts and feelings.
Share what you have on your heart in a non-threatening manner.
3) Think of the problem in terms of the needs of each spouse. Being
unselfish is hard at this time, but it is important. Remember selfishness is a
root cause for most conflicts. Therefore, thinking about the other spouse’s
needs and concerns with help solve the conflict.
4) Ask yourself, "Can my spouse’s need be accommodated?" Be
willing to see how best to accommodate your spouses’ wishes.
5) Consider alternative solutions. There are often many ways to kill a
cat. If one partner insists that his or her way is the only way, then the
conflict remains. However, being open to various alternatives to solving the
conflicts goes a long way.
6) Evaluate your possibilities It is important for the couple to keep an
open mind and to take the time to evaluate carefully and honesty all
7) Pray together Placing God at the center is a sure antidote to anger
and selfishness. Coming together in prayer with the right attitude and an open
mind will open doors to proper conflict resolution. However, do not let prayer
be a cop-out or cover-up. Be genuine about it.
8) Plan to reassess the solution.
After arriving at a good solution and
carrying it out, the couple should take time to reassess the solution and see if
it brought happiness, acceptance, and other benefits to the relationship.