"...Teach the older women to be reverent ...then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands. So that no one will malign the work of God" Titus 2:3-4
On Thursday of this week, I am attending my first ever "Blessings Shower" for a lovely young woman who just graduated from the Teen Mother Choices program that I work with during the school year. This will be the first blessings shower I will have ever attended. Perhaps reading the quote above, which was on the invitation, will give you an idea of what this is all about. We will be showering the bride-to-be with God's Word, personal experience, or wisdom passed on to us from a Godly woman and then we will be praying for her. I just finished writing up what I think is a huge key to successful marriage/relationships and decided to share it here as well in case anyone is interested.
I learned much of this myself through a couple of books and words of wisdom through other older Godly women.
In the almost 7 years of marriage to my husband, I have come to strongly believe that the secret to our success is based in our learning and practicing effective conflict resolution skills. I can remember how it was before getting married, why would I even want to think about such a negative topic? I was in love, romance was in the air and life was close to perfect. But conflict happens. Romance is interrupted by daily reality. And really, love is so much bigger than romance. Even the best suited couples face conflict. Some of the top issues that can cause conflict are the division of household responsibilities, differing perspectives on money issues, in-law tensions and scheduling conflicts.
Often individuals resort to conflict resolution methods that they learned from their families. Some of the common, but ineffective methods are the following:
· Withdrawing from the situation, refusing to talk about it, giving a cold shoulder. The result is added tension and the problem doesn’t get worked out.
· Shouting, throwing, breaking things. This only causes damage, not just to physical objects, but emotionally to the other person. Again, the problem is most likely not effectively worked out.
· Escaping – for example, going shopping, working too much, getting drunk. This method is both self-destructive and masks the issue at hand by causing another issue. Here conflict is avoided.
· Physical abuse – this is an out of control reaction causing pain and distance, it is cyclical and is therefore a horrible example for children in the home. Unfortunately that is often why it happens in the first place, because an individual learned it as a child in their family.
It is always a good idea to discuss conflict resolutions used in your respective families together. It creates awareness and sets the stage for discussing how you plan to handle conflict with each other.
Before you even study some practical conflict resolution skills, it is so important to have the right attitude. Even without skills, I believe a marriage, or any other relationship can be resilient to conflict with the right attitude. That attitude is the spirit of reconciliation. Too often, individuals have a spirit of retaliation in approaching conflict. They want to strike back, get even and point fingers. But what we must realize is that we have fallen short of God’s standards by our sin and we are in conflict with Him! But our God, full of mercy, gave us His son to bridge the gap of conflict with Him. This joy of our reconciliation to our holy God begins to invade other areas of our life. We desire to experience the peace we have with God with others. We realize that every person matters to God and should therefore matter to us. And so we have compassion for others.
Once you have the spirit of reconciliation, the following practical skills will come much easier:
· Pray about the problem before you even approach your spouse. Seek a more balanced perspective about the situation. Are you part of the problem? Is this issue as big as you make it out to be?
· Plan with your spouse a time to talk about this issue as soon as possible. Make time to sit down together alone and undisturbed to discuss the situation.
· When talking, start with affirming words such as “I love you and appreciate you and I want to work on this together to straighten it out.”
· Be willing to take blame!
· Bring your hurt, not your hostility – communicate honestly, even if you feel hurt and don’t know why, tell your spouse just that. You may be surprised that together you can discover the source of your feelings and in doing so develop a more intimate bond. Just a warning, if you wait too long to approach your spouse with your concern, your hurt could very well turn into anger.
· Be direct and don’t beat around the bush or drop hints. Your spouse may not catch on, or may get frustrated with you.
· Use “I feel” statements rather than accusations. For example instead of saying “You did such and such,” say “I feel such and such, when you do that.” Accusations put the other person on the defense!
· Avoid using the words “Never” and “Always.” Wow, will that ever put the other person on the defense! It can cause a lot of hurt, anger and emotional damage.
What if you are still having trouble resolving conflict? There is nothing shameful in seeking help.
“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make a victory.” Proverbs 11:14
Help is best found in a trusted friend or family member. Not a pal or a casual acquaintance. Help is not productively sought out in the form of gossiping about your spouse or venting, but truly asking for advice for the entire situation, including your own shortcomings in the matter. And if you don’t have a friend you feel comfortable or trusting enough with to discuss such important and private matters, seek out professional counsel. It is truly better to seek counsel when things are just a little rough rather than to wait until a situation is out of control.
Again, conflict resolution may seem like a real drag to think about right now, and if you don’t feel like even thinking about it now, please tuck this away in case you want to look back at it someday. I truly believe that if you can solve issues well with your spouse, your bond will be much stronger than if you have no conflicts at all. Because it is through conflict that you can learn so much about each other, truly have compassion for each other and learn to weather the toughest storms that may come your way.