Sunday, March 12, 2017

Making a Marriage Work - How to Resolve Conflict

When your marriage isn't working, all the advice columns in the world won't fix it. It takes action - and both sides being willing to take it. Aside from infidelity and drugs (or any serious problems with addictive behavior for that matter... like shopping, exercise, gambling, etc.), I firmly believe that the root of all marital problems is a lack of proper communication. When you love someone, you have to make an effort to understand them and view things from their perspective. What seems logical to you, may not even cross the other person's mind. This does not mean anyone is right or wrong, it just means we are all different.
In recognizing that you cannot read your significant other's mind, they cannot read yours either. Here are some ways you can learn to communicate, resolve conflict and make your marriage work:
1. Never Assume. Let the other person know what's on your mind. This can be anything that you may have questions about. The only way you can really know what a person is thinking, what their words mean, or their intention is to ask them. Making assumptions will only cause you more grief. Assuming allows you to take your uncertainties and fill in the blanks yourself, creating a whole separate story that is likely untrue.
2. Address Issues Immediately. Holding on to hurt or anger and burying it only feeds the beast.
3. Change Your Behavior First. Understand that just like in physics, every action causes and equal and opposite reaction. If one party is verbally abusive, it affects how the other reacts. If one party threatens divorce constantly or refuses to talk about financial issues, it can only make the situation worse, not better. Change how you react to the negative stimulus and you may find your partner reacts differently, too.
4. Don't Assign Blame - while the actual activity or incident may be the focus of a problem, you are supposed to be a team. Often times, the mistakes people make in a marriage have a root causes other than what you are arguing about. It goes back to behavior and why people do things. Did you contribute to the problem by doing something that may have caused a reaction or event to occur? While the person who carried out the act or incident is still ultimately responsible and accountable for it, you may actually have been a contributing factor. Don't assign blame, work on solutions together instead.
5. Identify Repeating Patterns and Work on Solutions- identify issues that continue to repeat themselves and work on how to overcome these obstacles. Try sitting down together and writing a list of the challenges you have by taking a positive approach instead of a negative one. Again, for every action there is a reaction, so instead of telling someone why you are so miserable, try telling them what you need to be happy and work on getting there. How do you do that? You can start by telling them how you feel and asking the other person what they need from you.
For example:
Negative Approach:
"I hate it when you..."
"What you do is wrong because..."
"I wish you wouldn't..."
"You did this to me..."
"You always..."
"You need to stop doing..."
Positive Approach:
"I am hurt when..."
"What needs do you have, that I can work on?"
"What can I do to make you feel more... (happy, secure, loved)?"
6. Dont Sweat the Small Stuff -- If it really truly bothers you that the toothpaste is squeezed from the middle then say so. But you are going to have to take some of the bad with the good. Most people don't do things exactly like you would, and no one is perfect. Small things like this just aren't worth fighting over.
7. Revenge/Teaching Someone a "Lesson" -- Do you hold grudges? Before you decide to teach your spouse a "lesson", consider the fact that kicking a grown man or woman when their down is not the kind of loving relationship you should be striving for. It may take time when it is a big mistake, but you most of you took the vows that held the phrase "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, for good times and in bad..." Remember that? When you love someone and have committed to marriage, you may not always like them or what they do, but making them pay over and over for mistakes is counterproductive.
8. Counseling - Sometimes this is the only option, and I consider it to be a last resort. Most of us do not want open up our can of worms to a stranger. Don't look at it as a bad thing, though. Often it's not that the two of you are so messed up individually, it's just your relationship is to the point where it is just too dysfunctional and you require some mediation. Choose your counselor carefully and if you feel they are biased go to a different counselor you both agree on.
There may be situations in which only one person is willing to work and the other is indifferent and uncooperative. At that point, you have to decide if it is something you can live with for now, or something you can't. No one else can give you the answer, and we can't change anyone but ourselves. Do the best you can, especially if you have children.
The bottom line is, if you love each other and value your family, you can never stop working on it. People are individuals who grow and change constantly - and not always in the same way our partners do.

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