President Thomas S. Monson said: “Some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears.”[i]
While reviewing one of my textbooks, I felt compelled to share this tool on resolving conflict in our marriages. This is taken directly from Marriages and Families 5th ed. (2005) chapter 10. Hope you find this useful. I sure did!
“Conflict refers to discrete, isolated disagreements as well as chronic relational problems (Canary et al.,1995).
A study of married couples found that the majority of participants reported an average of one or two “unpleasant disagreements” per month (McGonagle et al.,1993).
Comedian Phyllis Diller’s quip, “Don’t go to bed mad. Stay up and fight! Is insightful. Conflict is not in itself a bad thing. If families recognize conflict and actively attempt to resolve it, conflict can serve as a catalyst to strengthen relationships (Rosenzweig, 1992)
Both researchers and practitioners have suggested effective ways of dealing with anger and strife, including guidelines for “fair fighting”. Fights that humiliate embarrass, browbeat, or demoralize the other person will not clear the air. Rules for fair fighting do not guarantee a resolution. Because they are based on negotiation and compromise, however, they offer [spouses] a better chance of developing more constructive ways of dealing with conflict.
Therapists, counselors, and researchers hold conflicting views as to whether and how marital [companions] and families should handle conflict. In general, however, many feel that arguing the issues is healthier than suffering in silence. Clinicians who deal with dissatisfied couples offer the following advice on changing some of our most destructive interaction patterns.
Don’t attack your [spouse]. He or she will only become defensive and will be too busy preparing a good rebuttal to hear what you have to say.
- Avoid ultimatums; no one likes to be backed into a corner.
- Say what you really mean and don’t apologize for it. Lies are harmful, and apologetic people are rarely taken seriously.
- Avoid accusations and attacks; do not belittle or threaten.
- Start with your own feelings. “I feel’ is better than “You said.” Focus on the problem, not the other person.
- State your wishes and requests clearly and directly; do not be manipulative, defensive or sexually seductive.
- Limit what you say to the present or near present. Avoid long lists of complaints from the past.
- Refuse to fight dirty: a. No gunnysacking, or keeping one’s complaints secret and tossing them into an imaginary gunnysack that gets heavier and heavier over time. b. No passive-aggressive behavior, or expressing anger indirectly in criticism, sarcasm, nagging, or nitpicking. c. No silent treatment; keep the lines of communication open. d. No name-calling.
- Use humor and comic relief. Laugh at yourself and the situation – but not at your [spouse]. Learning to take ourselves less seriously and to recognize our flaws without becoming so self-critical that we wallow in shame or self-pity can have a healing effect during fights.
- Strive for closure as soon as possible after a misunderstanding or disagreement by resolving the issue. This prevents dirty fighting and, more important, it holds the [spouses] to their commitment to negotiate until the issue is resolved or defused. (Crosby, 1991a; Rosenzweig, 1992)”[ii]