Q&A: Resolving conflict with an experiment

Q: What can I do when my spouse avoids conflict and seems to want “peace at any price”? Unresolved issues are boiling beneath the surface, and we’re growing apart. How can I turn things around before it’s too late?

A: If handled correctly, conflict can be a pathway to deeper intimacy in your marriage. Disagreements about money, career, childrearing, sex, and in-laws can typically be traced to one underlying issue: fear. At some point, all of us are gripped by the fear of inadequacy, rejection, powerlessness, and so on. The cure for these fears can be found in intimacy, validation, love, and connection—qualities that are essential to any marriage.

With that in mind, we suggest that you ask your spouse to try an experiment with you. It will take just twenty minutes once or twice a week. During the first ten minutes, one of you will talk about issues that are bothering you. The other will agree to listen without argument or debate. The only response allowed is to ask for clarification. During the second ten minutes, the other spouse will talk. Again, a request for clarification is the only response permitted.

At the end of the twenty minutes take a time-out from each other. Reflect on what your spouse has said. Does it help you understand some of the reasons for his or her feelings? Chances are, this experiment will help you both better understand the underlying issues that are causing strain in your marriage.

If your spouse remains intent on avoiding conflict, seek assistance from a counsellor who can help you gain perspective on what’s happening. Please do not hesitate to call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to support@family.org.my.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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