‘Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.’ ~ Zig Ziglar
Conflict is a minefield in the piece of land called relationship, very much part of life yet so badly handled by many. Those in love want to know how to resolve it well. They want to understand, when do you fight and why, for how long and for what reason?
When do you let things slide? Is there a three-step process involved; (1) spot a conflict from afar, (2) nip it in the bud and, (3) smile and live conflict-free?
Is fighting even healthy? And how do you know that the fights you have are an indicator of a healthy relationship or that your relationship is going down?
The truth is that in every loving relationship, there is a season one goes through that makes them think they cannot take it anymore. The fights, themselves, can be and actually are usually useful as they help you understand the boundaries, help you get to know what the other person likes or doesn’t, and/or make you realize how self-centered we all can be etcetera. Ultimately, they should help you understand why the other person acts the way they do.
The biggest struggle is to know how to fight fair. But what is ever fair about fighting?
I have been caught cheating in this game and therefore my fighting mode is hardly deemed fair. Let me set the scene. Disclaimer – this is not to excuse my bad behavior when it happens. Probably it just helps me understand why I act the way I do.
I love conflict. It provides an avenue for me to resolve the issues at hand, hopefully. The truth is we cannot avoid conflict. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing, the problem is how we handle it.
I am the first-born in a family of four who were born very close to each other agewise, a perfect recipe for conflict to abound in my father’s house. Most times I was held responsible for matters not handled properly or as per my parent’s instructions. As a result, I had to ensure my voice was heard by my parents (and siblings) in a bid to defend myself from my siblings’ mistakes at times.
My father said I loved arguing. I guess that set a platform for my career. It was no surprise when I chose to study law. As time went by, I realized that I actually did enjoy litigation. However, my arguing streak never left.
I have used that trait to make convincing arguments at work. And better still, at home. My friends know me well. I always wonder though whether I am already disadvantaged in an argument by virtue of being a lawyer; you know how people like to say ‘lawyers just love arguing’. At times, a good argument is lost in such an assumption.
That said, I am terrible at losing fights, I admit. It’s not easy. But I am learning how to fight fair. Sometimes I get it, other times I don’t. Therefore, I turn to the Scriptures. What does 1 Corinthians 13 say?
Love is patient: You need the patience to walk through an issue. Learn to understand the other person’s need for not wanting to talk at that point when the issue is grave. The matter, however, should not be left for periods unending. Be willing to seek counsel when it is beyond you.
Love is kind: Do not threaten or bully your partner. Be tactful and sincere. Don’t invalidate the other person. Be honest with the other person when they use unkind words or acts.
Love does not envy: Do not be jealous over your spouse’s ambitions or achievements. Such feelings can stir up unnecessary feelings of unhappiness or cause a couple to compete with each other. Be careful not to envy other couple’s lives as well. Stick to your lane.
Love does not boast: During a dispute, don’t keep reminding someone of their past errs. Address the issue. Don’t tell the other person ‘I told you so’ or ‘you never learn’.
Love is not rude: Love does not dishonor. Do not tear down someone in public or roll the eyes or sulk or give the silent treatment. Avoid sharing private matters with family or pals when you are not aligned on who to share with. Protect your partner. Restrain yourself from speaking when in anger. Watch the bad language and tone. Listen to each other respectfully.
Love is not self-seeking: You don’t have to always win (isn’t that hard?)
Love is not easily angered / irritable: Don’t lose your temper; do not hit or shout as this will not help the situation, but only aggravate.
Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs: (By having a script in your head before you discuss an issue). Always resolve the issues so that they don’t pile. Bring out concerns before the sun goes down. Some issues may require you sleeping on the matter. Discuss and forgive. Don’t drag past matters to current ones.
Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in truth: Learn to embrace the truth when issues are raised about you. Don’t avoid conflict. Get to the bottom of things. Use this chance to listen and learn whether what you are being told is true about yourself. Work on what you can.
Love always trusts: Trust is built over time as a result of being open with each other. You can trust that the other person is making good choices even when they are away. Many marriages crumble because of lack of trust.
Love always hopes: Never give up and don’t lower your standards.
Love always perseveres: Divorce is not an option, it never is and should never be. Work through the marriage as long as it takes. You’re not married to a perfect person. Please consider your safety however, when the issues lead to threat to your life or that of your children.
Managing conflicts is hard and yes, it takes a lot of effort. But you need to learn to fight fair, after all, that relationship depends on both of you.
I have been reading the book ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff , and it’s all small stuff’ by Richard Carlson. It’s a good short read which has invaluable pointers on what to do to make your life easier, tips that you can also use in your relationship.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13