Maybe in your home it’s who takes the dog out. Or, who does the dishes. Even who takes the trash out. Often it’s not the monumental things that we don’t know how to resolve that cause ongoing conflict. It’s the simple issues that create conflict. 2 + 2 = 4 is a simple equation. There was a time when we didn’t know the answer to 2 + 2, but now we know. The answer to that problem is 4. It’s always 4. Many of the conflicts we have in marriage are just as solvable and just as easy if we simply knew how to solve.
How do we solve the simple, ongoing conflicts in marriage? Why do we get stuck at the 2 + 2 = 4 problems in marriage? Many counselors tell us if we’re having these issues to just put ourselves in our spouses shoes and attempt to communicate that you see the issue from their perspective. We’re told if we do that everything will be fine. For me, and maybe it’s just me, there’s only one problem with that. If you’re really angry you can’t do that. Your marriage has to be in a pretty good place to pull that off and if it were you wouldn’t have these problems to begin with.
So, how do you solve the simple problems in relationships? Maybe your “solvable problems” have been going on so long you’ve lost hope. You think that in your marriage there’s always going to be an area of conflict. There will always be some measure of tension. It’s just the way it is. What about Philippians 4:13 that reminds us “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”?
What if you recognized that you already posses the skills to solve these problems? You do it in other relationships regularly. This won’t take thousands of dollars of counseling or months and months to resolve. You can do this now… today, and the positive results will come quickly.
It’s about having good manners. Treating your spouse with the same respect that you would treat a dinner guest. As they’re leaving if they forgot their coat you would simply grab their coat and say, “Here, you forgot this.” You would never dream of saying, “What’s wrong with you? What am I, your slave? Am I suppose to pick up after you every time you come over?” You would never say that. There’s a level of courtesy and respect and kindness you would show to a guest. You would be understanding of their feelings even when they do something wrong. If they spill a drink you wouldn’t slam them, you would assure them that it’s no big deal… it’s fine.
You have all the skills necessary to solve the 2 + 2 problems in your marriage. You don’t even have to be calm to do it. This works even when you’re angry. You can be in the middle of a huge argument with your spouse and the phone rings and when you answer you do so in a way that the person on the other end would never know your angry. You can be lit and the phone rings and you implement the skills necessary to treat someone well.
We know how to do this. There’s one person you made a vow to spend the rest of your life with. One person you promised to love even in their imperfect moments, through their bad habits, and in spite of how tough your day is. That person should never be treated with less respect and thoughtfulness than you’d give an acquaintance or stranger.
To solve the solvable problems that reoccur in marriage simply take that same kindness or thoughtfulness and share that with your spouse. Couples do not divorce because they have massive, explosive fights. Marriages end because to avoid those fights, husbands and wives put distance in the relationship so the friendship and sense of connection is lost.
In healthy and happy marriages couples set a soft tone with each other. Conflict is natural and normal. When dealing with the conflict, set a soft tone in the discussion about how to resolve it. You have to solve the 2 + 2 problems in your marriage. Your chances of solving them are exponentially greater if you soften your “startup” in entering the discussion. You soften your approach.
Your goal isn’t to win an argument, your goal is to achieve a resolution so the person you love feels as good about the outcome as you do.
You get to control how you discuss problems. How a conversation begins is usually how it ends. If you enter a conversation in a hostile way that tone will carry on through the conversation. If, however, you maintain a soft tone even if the other person doesn’t, it will benefit the atmosphere of that conversation. It’s not just about what you say, it’s how you say it and the facial expressions you have during the conversation.
Beginning a conversation in attack mode stating, “You spend too much money” sets a very different tone than beginning with “I was thinking… I feel like we should save more. Can we talk about how we might do that?”.
Try it. Because tone is everything when it comes to 2 + 2. You’ll come to 4 every time.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I’m praying your 2016 is your best year every! Peace to you.