Conflict is the difficult part of marriage. It some ways how you handle conflict as a couple can make or break the relationship. Josh and I had a rough road for the first year of our marriage as we fought to figure out how to resolve differences. We learned that more important than what we were arguing about was how we were arguing.
The first thing we had to teach ourselves to keep in mind when we were angry was that we loved the other person more than we were angry at them. Keeping your priorities straight in your mind can help you to have the right perspective when approaching an argument. If you fight with only the purpose of making sure the other person hears you then that is all you will accomplish; instead try to fight with the goal of resolving the conflict so it doesn’t happen again and everyone ends up feeling loved.
For me the next thing I needed to learn was to be slower to anger and be better at evaluating why I was angry. Little things seemed to set me off and yelling felt like the only way I could get my point across. I do not remember where I picked this up but at some point while reading though either a psychology text book or some other I book I came across this bit of knowledge. Anger is a reaction to someone or something violating a value of yours, if you can look beyond the immediate reaction of emotions to self-evaluate what value it was that has been violated you will be able to more clearly communicate why you are upset. This not only helped me to communicate better but it also is what I use as a tool to slow down my reaction and take more time to think things through rationally. I combined this with my desire to be slow to anger and my desire to forgive first. My thoughts go something like this, “I am upset, why am I upset, did Josh even know he upset me, should I forgive him first, do I really want to fight and hurt his feelings, how can I approach this discussion kindly to help him not hurt my feelings again?”
Now, to be clear, we do still fight sometimes. Emotions do run high at times and we can get carried away but we have learned to forgive each other for things said in the heat of the moment that we may not have meant. We have learned to cool down before trying to work things out. We have learned to give each other more grace and love. Josh and I have intentionally tried to end every argument with a mini planning session of how we can “fight” better next time, to help things go smoother. Conflict is a part of life, make it a priority to talk to each other about how you fight and how you can purpose to fight less, fight for shorter amounts of time, and fight with love and forgiveness at the forefront of your mind.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)