My husband and I came into marriage with diametrically opposed perspectives regarding conflict. He hails from a large Italian-American family where arguments happened on a somewhat regular basis. Family members would yell at each other, the temperature in the room would escalate, and then someone would tell a joke, diffusing the tension and returning the household to normal. No one ever apologized or resolved anything. Ever.
My roots are English and German. Let’s just say keeping a stiff upper lip was a much higher priority than showing your emotions—or telling the truth.
During our 26-year marriage, figuring out how to do conflict well has been imperative and essential. Here’s some of what we’ve learned.
1. Commit to deeply listen to each other. This means developing an open posture toward your spouse.
2. Refuse to become defensive. This is incredibly important and incredibly difficult!
3. Decide your comfort level regarding decibels. Few of us thrive when someone is yelling. Some of us even shut down. Determine what’s acceptable before you have a fight—and then hold each other accountable.
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