Working with struggling couples for years, we know that sometimes the relationship problem is a surprise. Other times we know exactly what we did to cause the problem.
We have observed 4 patterns of reaction to relationship problems spouses engage in that actually hurt more than they help. They seem “good” because they keep us from feeling or dealing with the issue. That temporary relief fades quickly when the issue reoccurs. They always end up getting in the way of our goal of a lifelong relationship.
- Talk about it to others rather than talking to your spouse about it. When we talk about it to others and they take our side, like friends do, then it further galvanizes our position and vilifies our spouse, widening the gap of misunderstanding.
- Hide what you truly think and feel about it from your spouse. Emotions do not just go away. We damage the relationship when we power up and tell them off. When we hide, repress and deny, our emotions end up coming out sideways.
- Withdraw away from your spouse to work commitments or stress relieving hobbies. We assume incorrectly that if we avoid our spouse, the issue will go away. The issue remains unresolved to pop up unexpectedly another day.
- Refuse to see your contribution to the problems in the relationship. We deny responsibility by blaming and making excuses.
The difference between couples who make long-term relationships work and those who do not is what they do when conflict occurs. Any spouse can go first to stop adding to or avoiding the situation. You can unilaterally take action to begin creating a future where the issue does not keep reoccurring. You can make a difference by taking responsibility to engage the problem head-on with the following action steps.
- Invite God in through prayer.
- Focus on your long-term desire to have a trusting deeply-connected loving relationship.
- Make room in your schedules for an uninterrupted period of time to have the conversation.
- Help your spouse share the movie playing in her head about the situation until they are fully heard. Give “full body” attention focused on understanding what it is your spouse is saying regardless of whether you are in agreement.
- Check to see if you heard correctly by mirroring what was shared back to your spouse. “What I hear you saying is…”
- Share the movie playing in your heard about the situation in a way your spouse can hear you. Own and speak your truth, including your feelings and judgments about the situation, by using “I” statements.
- Take full and complete responsibility for all the ways you contributed to the problem even if it was unintentional. Offering an apology for your part is powerful.
- Commit to action. Ask what your spouse wants or needs in the future. Ask for what you want from your spouse in the future. Make temporary commitments in an attempt to build the long-term relationship you desire.
What have you found is helpful and constructive during relationship conflicts?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2014. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.