Conflict is an area that often motivates a couple to seek counseling. Parenting issues, division of duties, financial goals, and everyday life can all be sources of disagreement.
Differing conflict resolution styles can add to the challenge. Often, one spouse is a fighter—a person who likes to tackle conflict head on, get it resolved, and get back to enjoyable interaction. The faster the better, let’s get ’er done!
Nothing is wrong with this style of resolving conflict. The problem comes when a fighter marries… a runner!
The runner feels the hair stand up on the back of their neck whenever conflict arises. A runner needs some space to take time to gather their thoughts so they can speak without regrets. Nothing is wrong with this conflict style either.
The tug of war begins between the two styles. Something has to give!
During a class I taught on marriage conflict a student shared, “My wife and I struggle during conflict. We’ll be talking about something important, not even heated, and she’ll just up and walk out of the room! I can’t believe how disrespectful she is!” Then I asked a question I already knew the answer to, “What do you do when she leaves the room?” He said, “Well, I follow her.” “Does that help?” I asked. “No, it usually makes it worse. What should I do?”
My highly trained mind came up with an immediate answer. “Do something different! Watch TV, go for a walk, tinker in the garage—do anything but follow her. Do you think you can do that?” He had to think for a second. Then agreed, “Yes, I think I can.”
The next week he came to class with a big smile on his face. “I had a chance to practice what we talked about,” he said. Translation: He and his wife got into an argument. She stormed out of the room and he took a few steps to follow her. Then he stopped, took a deep breath, and sat down to read the newspaper instead. Five minutes later his wife came back and said, “I was so mad I stomped up to our room and slammed the door in your face, but… your face wasn’t there! I was so worried, I had to come back and see if you were okay.” When she saw him calmly reading the paper, she decided it was safe, and they came to a resolution! (Disclaimer—Results may vary!)
Are you and your spouse fighting the same fights over and over, ending up in the same place? Take it from a highly trained professional, as a fighter or a runner—you’ll need to be creative, and have a plan in mind before the next heated conversation. Eliminate the option that you already know doesn’t work, and take another path.
You can do this!