Q: How can my spouse and I work through our many unresolved conflicts? At this point we’re practically living separate lives, and the problem is only getting worse. Should we simply agree to disagree about our differences?
A: Differences are usually what attract partners to one another. Agreeing to disagree, when it’s appropriate, is realistic. But it’s silly and pointless to stay divided over issues that really don’t matter. Here are some steps you can take to deal with the more formidable conflicts in your marriage:
- First, realise that you learn to work through conflict by confronting the issue – not by avoiding it.
- Remember the purpose of confronting the conflict: resolution. Your ultimate goal is to reconcile and make your relationship even stronger. Winning the battle isn’t important. What matters is continuing to strengthen your bond.
- Don’t procrastinate. Conflict resolution should be undertaken as soon as either party recognises that he or she is feeling upset.
- Take turns expressing your feelings about the conflict at hand. Listen to your spouse carefully. Use “I” statements instead of attacking the other person – for instance, “I feel hurt when you don’t follow through,” rather than, “You’re so irresponsible.”
- Specifically express your need to your spouse. Then come up with a mutually satisfactory plan of action. For example, say something like, “It would help me if you’d take out the rubbish as soon as you agree to do it.” Once you’ve established this, write out a schedule specifying that the rubbish is to be taken out every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. That way, both of you will have the same expectation.
- Find another couple or a counsellor who will commit to keeping both of you accountable. Share the plan of action you’ve agreed upon. Knowing that someone is holding you accountable can help you follow through.
If you need help sorting things out, please call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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