Do You Have a Conflict Prevention Policy? MMM Linkup
“Don’t look at where you fall, but where you slipped.” ~ African Proverb
On Saturday night, Adam and I went out to enjoy dinner together. We got into an argument in the car. Now date night could’ve been ruined, but once we reached the restaurant, we decided to respectfully and honestly discuss the issues at hand, over our meal, that had led up to the problem.
While I don’t recommend “conflict management discussions” and “date night” coinciding, I do think regular conversations about tension issues that may come up during the week is a good idea.
As a clarification, this isn’t a list of what to do once you start an argument. This suggestion isn’t damage control. Think of these conversations as damage prevention.
Like you would take out an insurance policy on your home or your car, consider these weekly sessions as your “conflict prevention policy.” It’s an opportunity to look at where you’ve been slipping up to hopefully prevent future falls and mitigate the situation quickly when you do fall.
The idea of a conflict prevention policy is to discuss with your spouse points of contention, bring up things you may have ignored or suppressed recently, and to talk through frustrations and negative emotions in a healthy and loving way with the purpose of mitigating and preventing problems in the future.
What Are the Benefits?
- Decreased Conflict or Prevention of Conflict
- Decreased Festering Anger/Bitterness/Frustration/Self-pity
- Revelation of Root Issues
- Opportunities to Strategize
- Opportunities for Reconciliation
- Strengthened Unity
- Improved Communication
- Deeper Sexual & Emotional Intimacy
- Increased Spiritual Intimacy
- Better Insight into Your Spouse
- Protection Against Spiritual Warfare
- More Effective Prayers for Self, Spouse, and Marriage
- Higher Honor and Respect for Spouse and God
Suggestions for the First Conversation
- Pick safe zones. I’d highly recommend not having these conversations at home, but if that is unavoidable, determine together what areas are off-limits like the bedroom.
- Pre-select appropriate times. Your discussions don’t have to always be at the exact same time every week, but discuss times that don’t work. (i.e. not right before bed, not during dinner, not before rushing to work in the morning, etc).
- Set ground rules (i.e. no cell phone/tech gadget use, TV off, no name-calling, no walking away, etc.)
- Pick code phrases you can use when you do argue. For example, my husband and I’ve decided that saying something like, “Honey, I feel like you’re attacking me” translates “take a second and collect your thoughts and emotions.”
How to Have a Conflict-Management Conversation
- Hold hands and pray together before each conversation. It can be as simple as: Lord, we pray a hedge of protection around our marriage.
- Decide who will talk first and who will follow up. Give each other equal opportunity to talk.
- Discuss the previous week’s suggestions. Did any of our proposed solutions worked? If so, how did it help? How can we continue to do what we’ve discussed? If not, how can we improve? Do we need to consider different tactics?
- If there’s ever a week where there’s nothing to bring up, ask God to make you aware of any potential problems and if you still don’t come up with anything, agree on a time where you’ll revisit the subject.
- Pray at the end of your conversation. Thank the Lord for giving you the time to talk. Pray about the things you’ve discussed, and ask the Lord to place a hedge of protection around you between now and the following week.
6 Be’s to Remember
- Be respectful. This is important! Watch your tone of voice, body language, and your words carefully.
- Be honest. This isn’t an excuse to mockingly point out your husband’s flaws and exalt yourself as better than him. This is a time when you can open up about how you truly feel and what you’re perceiving.
- Be willing to repent. Confess when you’ve wronged your spouse and ask for forgiveness.
- Be quick to forgive.
- Be specific. Use examples (i.e. “I’ve been frustrated lately because I haven’t been getting enough sleep. That’s why beginning an argument before bed isn’t healthy for either of us.”)
- Be open. Agree to hear each other out. Don’t be formulating in your mind what to say in response. Don’t judge what he/she is saying. Listen while your spouse is talking. If you need to, repeat back what he/she just said (i.e. “So let me see if I’m hearing you right. You feel…).
What to Do In Between Conversations
- Keep a list during the week to keep track of things you might want to discuss, prayer requests, and answered prayers.
- Enact suggestions.
- Give yourselves time to pray about and think through issues individually. If you can’t come to an agreement or you don’t know how you feel or what you want to say or what a root issue is, etc, take time apart to wrestle with it on your own. If it isn’t critical, agree to revisit the subject next week. This also goes for if there’s a point in your conversation where you or your spouse needs a minute or two to collect his/her thoughts.
- Pray! Pray for the following week’s conversation. Pray for your spouse. Pray for yourself. Pray for willingness, openness, respect, wisdom, protection, understanding, clear communication, etc.
- Don’t feel like you have to wait until your pre-selected time if a big issue arises (i.e. financial decision with a time limit that you disagree on or if your spouse says something intentionally hurtful). Use your discretion!
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a replacement for counseling should the situation be beyond normal conflict resolution. If you are in an abusive situation (verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual), if your spouse has an addiction, if you’ve discovered your spouse has been unfaithful, or you can’t reason with your spouse in any circumstance, don’t wait to get help outside your home!
“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” James 1:19 (ESV)
Your Turn? How do you and your husband resolve conflict? What do you think about setting up regular times to discuss conflict management? What other benefits are there to having a “conflict prevention policy”?
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