Tips for Dealing with Conflict – The Wisdom of 390 Years of Marriage Experience

by Greg and Priscilla Hunt

Fourteen married couples, representing a total of 390 years of marriage, were asked what tips for dealing with conflict they would share with a newlywed couple. They had learned a lot from personal experience in their own relationship. They shared these tips:

• When you have conflict, hang in there! All couples have fights and trying times. The exact topic may change, but the underlying conflicts are the same. You are not alone.

• Learn to accept and appreciate each other’s uniqueness – don’t even try to change each other! When your differences cause conflict, remember what attracted you to each other in the first place .

• Learn to use conflict creatively – even if it’s not resolved, make it work for you. See conflict as an opportunity to better understand each other and grow closer rather than pushing you farther apart.

• When you see a fight brewing, stop and do a “rewind.” Could you have said something differently? Then re-word it! Do you need time to get your thoughts together? Take a time out! Do you need to apologize? Say you’re sorry!

• Keep your relationship up-to-date by resolving conflicts as they arise. The longer they percolate, the bigger they become. Unresolved conflict can lead to hurt feelings which, if left unaddressed, can become resentments. Resentments damage the relationship. Deal with the conflict – don’t run from it or sweep it under the rug.

• Learn to resolve conflict effectively and lovingly. Read a book, take a class, attend a workshop – develop the relational skills you need to deal with conflict.

• Process your anger and reconnect before you go to sleep. Of course, there will be times when you’re just too tired or circumstances prevent this “ideal” – don’t worry. The problem will still be there in the morning – and might not look so bad in the light of day.

• Set ground rules for fighting fair before a conflict arises, not in the heat of the moment. Make the ground rules specific to your relationship – to your specific areas of vulnerability. Agree together to follow these ground rules. Hold each other accountable – when you see your partner not following the rules, call his or her hand at it. . . and agree to let them do the same when they see you’re not following the rules.

• Practice your conflict resolutions skills on little conflicts – don’t wait until they become big conflicts.

We’re not victims to bad habits of dealing with conflict – new skills, habits and patterns can be learned.

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep growing!

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