Conflict is an inevitable part of any intimate relationship, especially marriages. Many believe that a loving relationship will have no conflict at all, but the reality is that fights and disagreements happen most with those with which we are closest. The key to a healthy marriage is not the avoidance of conflict, but rather learning how to fight a good fight.
If you find yourself fighting with your spouse a lot and rarely finding a solution or resolution, don’t worry! You can work together to grow in this area. Bad conflict resolution skills are not a sign of an unhealthy marriage. However, left unchecked, unhealthy conflict can lead to a damaged relationship.
Thankfully, conflict resolution skills can be learned and practiced. One such skill is what I like to call ͞drive-thru listening.͟ Imagine you are in the Chick-fil-a drive thru. Of course, when you’re at Chick-fil-a, you are treated like royalty and can get through a 20-car line in less than 5 minutes. Most conversations go like this:
Chick-fil-a employee: ͞Welcome to Chick-fil-a, God’s gift to food and humanity, how may I help you today?͟
You: ͞Yes I’d like a chicken sandwich, no pickles, and fries, and a large sweet tea.
Chick-fil-a employee: ͞Ok, I have you a chicken sandwich, no pickles, fries, and a large sweet tea. Any sauce?
You: ͞Yes, 1000 packets of Chick-fil-a sauce please, thanks!͟
Chick-fil-a employee: ͞My pleasure, may you be blessed this day friend!͟
Wouldn’t it be great if all drive-thrus were that pleasant? Anyway, we can learn an important skill from this! After your order, the employee always (hopefully) repeats your order back to you. This helps avoid confusion and (again, hopefully) avoids you getting the wrong order.
When you have conflict in marriage, especially when your spouse is telling you something that upset him or her, remember to be like the Chick-fil-a employee. Make sure you understand what is really wrong. Make sure your spouse knows you hear and understand the problem. Then, by understanding, you can apologize and work toward fixing it. Your conversation may go like this:
Your spouse: ͞I can’t believe you missed dinner again! Why do you always have to work late? Can’t you tell them no sometimes?͟
You: ͞I’m sorry, are you upset that I work late?͟
Your spouse: ͞Well, not so much that, I know your job puts you under a lot of pressure. Really I just want to know that I’m important to you. Sometimes you just stay late without telling me.͟
You: ͞Ok, so next time I will try to find out earlier in the day if I have to work late so you can plan our meals. And I will tell my boss I need to be home for dinner more often.͟
You see, the problem was not necessarily that you have to work late, but that there is a lack of communication. By repeating the issue and getting to the root of the conflict, you were able to smooth things over with your spouse. Great job, theoretical you!
Practicing drive-thru listening improves your communication, lets your spouse know he or she is heard and understood, and can lead to less conflict in the future. This is a skill you can start working on immediately!