Challenges happen in all parts of our lives and marriages are no exception. How those challenges are handled depends on the couple’s knowledge about marriage and conflict resolution in a marriage and their dedication or commitment to the marriage relationship. However, I have found from my observations that most people have little knowledge of the marriage relationship and how it works. Many people get married because they are in love or it is the next step in the relationship. Both of which are not good reasons to tie the knot so to speak. Few people understand the dynamics of a marriage relationship and therefore no clue how to make it a happy marriage.
I would like to share some of the things that I have learned over the past 30+ years of marriage. I believe that practicing the things listed below will help you to effectively resolve conflicts within your marriage helping to obtain a happy marriage.
Know Your Spouse – It is surprising how many people do not really know their spouse, nor do they take the time to get to know him or her. We expect our spouses to be like us, to have the same love language, passions, etc. That is usually not the case at all. Your spouse is a different person, from a different background, with a different language, and perspective on things. It would benefit the relationship tremendously if the husband and wife would get to know each other intimately.
Be Respectful – Even though you may get angry at your spouse or otherwise have a disagreement, that does not mean that you should disrespect your spouse. Always treat your spouse with respect. Avoid angry outbursts and be understanding (if your spouse responds angrily) and apologize if you have an angry outburst. it’s silly to do things that create more issues while trying to deal with one.
Understand – Try to understand the issue from the perspective of your spouse. Sometimes we disagree on one point when in fact, your spouse sees a completely different point (or no point at all) because his or her perspective is different. I recall telling my wife many years ago how I felt that we are not together and therefore she is not with me. However, in her mind, we were together and she has been with me. We were both looking at things from two different perspectives unknowingly. The thing that I eventually recognized is that our concept of togetherness is quite different. In any challenge within the marriage, try to understand what your spouse is trying to tell you from their perspective. You might say to “put yourself in their shoes.”
Don’t Be Afraid of Confronting Your Spouse – A very dangerous practice in dealing with issues is to decide not to deal with the issues. The husband may be afraid to hurt his wife’s feelings, or the wife may be afraid of making her husband angry and they therefore never deal with the issue that keeps coming up. Neglecting to deal with challenges when they arise is like neglecting to deal with weeds in the lawn. They will never go away and will grow becoming more difficult to deal with in the future. There is a risk when bringing something up that you think is challenging the relationship (e.g., she may start crying, he may get angry). However, don’t let the fact that there is a risk keep you from identifying and dealing with challenges.
Deal with Challenges in a Timely Manner – Don’t wait until years have passed by to identify a challenge in your relationship with your spouse. That is counterproductive and will significantly interfere with resolving the issue. For example, If your husband hurts your feelings, then tell him. He may not know it. He may be used to talking to his friends or family who know him and know how to interpret what he does and says. You, however, may interpret what he says or does in a manner that is not intended. It is best to be prompt when identifying challenges.
Ensure the Proper Motive – Dealing with challenges is not the same as complaining about issues or giving your spouse a piece of your mind so to speak. It is about truly resolving issues that are damaging to the relationship. Ensure that your motive for discussing an issue is resolution and improvement of the marriage relationship and not a soapbox or sounding board for you to complain.
Consider Your Contribution to the Challenge – Rarely are challenges in a marriage 100% one-sided. The husband and wife will in most cases contribute to the issue at hand. This is not a matter of identifying percentages of blame, but simply understanding that humans respond to one another and an issue within a marriage may be partially due to a response of your spouse to something you are doing.
Manage the Approach – How you bring up an issue that you would like to discuss with your spouse is probably just as important as the issue itself. Be sure you have the right attitude when you want to talk to your spouse about a challenge. Avoid being confrontational, demeaning, or prideful. Your attitude should be to resolve an issue within the marriage so that you can live happier ever after. Don’t approach your spouse with a bad attitude.
Listen to Your Spouse – We may be so adamant about making a point that we don’t see what our spouse is going through, which directly lead to the issue at hand. Listen to your spouse. You may find that what you thought was an issue is not one at all. At the very least, by listening, you can gain understanding, which goes a long way in conflict resolution.
Put on Thick Skin – Sometimes we are ready to dish out the indictment against others but are not ready to receive indictment from others. If you have an issue involving your spouse, then realize that your spouse may have an issue involving you. Your spouse may use this as an opportunity to tell you that so, be willing to take it as you dish it out. Remember that the objective is not to judge your spouse, but to resolve issues affecting a happy marriage.
Consider the Facts Above Your Emotions – Sometimes what we think are major challenges are merely our relatively weak or sensitive emotional states. We make a big deal out of something when in fact the big deal is how we feel. If we were to look at it from a non-emotional perspective, we may find that our feelings do not line up with the intent or language of our spouse. Don’t allow your emotions to cloud your perspective on the issue. Deal with the facts as they come out of your discussion with your spouse.
Forgive – One of the most damaging things to any relationship is unforgiveness, i.e., holding grudges or resentment. Forgiveness does not mean that you ignore what was done. Resolution is still the objective. However, it does mean that you no longer hold the offense against your spouse and thus releasing any resentment that you have towards your spouse because of the offense.
Deal with One Issue at a Time – It is critical not to become offended when discussing a challenge in the marriage and then bring up another issue altogether. That is extremely counterproductive. We may not like to hear that something we consistently do is somehow bothering your spouse and we may, therefore, belittle her and then bring up something that she does to bother you. Avoid that practice entirely. The discussion will quickly degrade into a crap throwing match instead of the resolution of an issue.
Trust Your Spouse – Unless the issue is indeed about trust, it is very important that you trust your spouse. For example, If your spouse says that he doesn’t remember something, then don’t assume that he is lying and take a defense based on that presupposition. Every bit of information that you get could be used to mitigate the challenge. If he doesn’t remember, then it could simply be that what you thought was a big deal was for him something not even worth remembering. He may have moved on while you have not. This is also why it is very important to bring up issues as soon as possible and not wait.
Always Have a Happy Marriage as the Destination – Dealing with challenges is not an exercise to confront your spouse. It is done to keep the marriage on a path towards happiness. It is done to protect the marriage. Always keep that in mind. You may find that some challenges aren’t challenges at all. Sometimes, we simply don’t want to let go of our own pride or ego and we manufacture a challenge. If the resolution of a challenge does not lead to a happier marriage then perhaps it isn’t a challenge at all.