In all likelihood, you and your spouse aren’t immune from the inevitable conflicts that arise in a marriage.
Anytime two people are brought together, there is bound to be conflict. There are always going to be things that you don’t agree on, whether the relationship is a marriage or a professional one.
In a marriage, conflicts that are mishandled can tear apart your marital bond, and derail your efforts toward achieving marital harmony. Add in the tumultuous effects of an affair, and you have a recipe for a powder keg to detonate when you experience conflicting views.
When Arguing is Good… and When it’s Bad
Do you and your spouse control your conflicts—or do they control you?
Thinking back over arguments with your spouse, you can probably quite vividly remember the ones that got completely out of control. One or both of you went too far, saying or doing something you would never think of doing in a state of rational calm.
Some tug-and-pull in a relationship is actually a good sign. It means you care about the relationship. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t waste your effort in arguing. Arguments mean there is passion between you and your spouse.
But when conflict crosses the line—leaving you both exhausted and drained and still dealing with unresolved issues—is when you and your spouse will need to take a look at how you’re managing conflict. If your arguing has devolved to the point of name-calling, disrespect and unsavory language, it’s time to call a halt.
Resolving conflicts after an affair has shaken the foundation of your marriage can be an exceptional challenge. Conflicts that may have been mildly heated before now take on a great deal of weight, in the form of negative thoughts, emotions and images that the victim of the affair is working through. The cheater also has emotions to work through, and may be defensive whenever the conversation takes a turn toward disagreement, because he or she is still managing the guilt they may feel for causing such a rift in the relationship.
Conflict Resolution Skill Set
You can’t help how you feel, but you can help how you behave when it comes to expressing those feelings.
Feelings involve issues and beliefs that have a strong effect on you. Your expression of those feelings requires skills that will help you and your spouse manage your conflicts in a way that doesn’t damage the relationship.
Step 1: Accept that, as a Couple, You’ll Disagree
If you feel strongly about an issue, it would be unreasonable to expect you or your spouse to tamp it down or ignore those feelings and hope they go away. That can cause more harm than good. It’s best to express those feelings.
When you and your spouse aren’t in perfect alignment on an issue, it does not mean the relationship is unsalvageable. Neither of you married your clone, so accept that you are two different individuals, possessing your own unique 3 pounds of brain matter, and that you are going to use that brain matter in ways that are different.
Step 2: Hit “Pause” on a Heated Discussion
When a conversation veers toward conflict, both you and your spouse need to take a breath and step back. Acknowledge—verbally—that this is a topic that requires deeper discussion because you aren’t in agreement.
By simply verbalizing aloud that there is a conflict of feelings, you are managing the tone from the outset. This allows you to pause, gather your thoughts, and understand exactly what your feelings on the subject.
Without this pause, a heated discussion can quickly slide down the slippery slope into an exchange that does nothing to express true feelings, and can leave both spouses angry and discouraged.
Step 3: Agree to Focus on the Specific Conflict
How many times have you been caught up in an argument with your spouse, and the next thing you know, one of you says something like:
“Like that time when your mother didn’t let me help with the surprise birthday party she threw for you, and you never said anything to her afterwards about it…”
“But, that was in 1984…”
Funny how today’s conflict over one thing seems to be dragging a whole trainload of ancient issues along with it. If this has been a pattern in your disagreements, it may help to once again verbalize: “This is what we are going to discuss, and we will stick with what is relevant to this specific topic.” Again, it’s a way to manage the direction and tone of the discussion.
I would like to hear from you about conflict in your marriage …
How are you and your spouse currently managing conflict? Would you say that you manage conflict, or is it managing you?
If you are working to save your marriage, has there been a change in how you both manage conflict?
Is your spouse receptive to putting in the effort to strengthen your marriage?
Please share your thoughts and experiences with conflict management by leaving a comment below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,