When I was a child, I dreamed of my future husband. I wondered what he would look like, what he would do for a living, and I wondered what kind of a life we would have together. Because it was my fantasy, I also dreamed of all the good times we would have and did not spend much time considering the bad times.
When I would see couples fight, I would think, “Wow, I’m so glad my marriage won’t be like that!” People often do not dwell on the bad times to come when they are considering marriage; yet, some do based on what they have experienced from other marriages. However, most of us look forward to the happy moments.
What a rude awakening it was to grow up and realize that I’m not the perfect wife! As much as I thought I could handle all the pressures of life and still be the June Cleaver of the 21st century, I found out quickly that there are no perfect marriages. I also came to realize that the strength of a marriage cannot be measured in the low quantity of confrontations, but in the quality of how well those confrontations are handled.
When I was a budding adolescent, my list of “I’ll never do’s…” was long. Raising my voice to my husband was something I was sure I would never do – especially considering how much I hated hearing other women do it to their husbands. Personally, I’m thankful that I never wrote my “I’ll never do…” list down, because I’d be embarrassed to read that list now. While I still think it is harmful for women to raise their voices harshly to their husbands and children (even pets!), I’ll admit that I have been a miserable failure in this area in my own life. On long, hot days when nothing seems to be going right, a frustrated scream seems to always loom on the horizon. Thankfully, there is grace from the Lord on those bad days. As you grow in grace, He will help you discover more Christ-like ways to cope with stress, and communicate with those you love.
Confrontations are going to happen in your relationship and marriage – even if you married someone with a similar personality and background. Why? Because we are all unique… which means there is no one else exactly like each of us. Due to differences that arise (and at the very least – male and female differences), some relationships are more prone to issues than others, but no one in a healthy marriage can honestly claim that they have never disagreed with their spouse.
Confronting your spouse may seem like second nature to you – or – you may be a laid back, tenderhearted person that fears confrontation. In either case, it is vital to know how to assertively, but not disrespectfully, confront well. When you do confront each other, it is important to not do it during an emotional moment. For example, if I’m scrambling to leave on a trip and Eric does not seem to be moving fast enough for us to leave at the appointed time (i.e., the time I previously established for us), it is probably not a good idea for me to ask him why he’s taking so long when I’m frazzled and tripping over luggage. I have found that when I take a breather, go into another room, and pray for my attitude (as well as Godspeed for Eric), things tend to move faster and more efficiently.
Fussing at your spouse about what they are doing wrong does not have a good track record of bringing about positive change. Usually it just turns his or her mood sour and makes the atmosphere of your home (or the impending car trip) cold and lonely. Additionally, never confront your spouse in front of others, especially your kids. One of the most loving, respectful things you can do for your husband or wife is to confront privately. Allowing others into your personal affairs is often humiliating for your spouse, not to mention awkward for onlookers.
If you sense that you need to confront him or her right away, quietly whisper and ask if you two can speak privately – not in such a manner that everyone knows you are about to show your wrath. No matter how frustrated you are with your spouse, and though it may temporarily make you feel better, it is counter-productive to humiliate him or her.
Confrontations can strengthen your relationship if done correctly and every relationship needs the air cleared from time to time. All of my closest friends and I have confronted each other at one time or another. Any relationship worth keeping is going to eventually include some confrontation – even if it is as simple as asking them not to smack their gum!
So, how do you do confrontation well? First item to do when planning a confrontation is to pray (this should always be rule number one). After praying, you may find that you need an attitude adjustment and that your spouse does not need to be confronted. Other times, you’ll need the Holy Spirit to guide your words because a confrontation is necessary.
If possible, ask him or her to sit down and proceed by calmly asking if you can dialogue about an issue of importance to you. If he or she consents, be sure to tell your boyfriend/girlfriend how much you appreciate him or her in doing so – not in a patronizing manner, but out of positivity. Bring the issue to the surface in a calm voice; remember, a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).
After discussing the issue at hand, end on a positive note, as if you are sandwiching the unpleasant topic between encouraging comments. Most people can handle being confronted if it is done respectfully. Always think about how you would want to be treated in a confrontation and don’t overstep your own rules regardless of how angry you may feel.
In reflection, ponder these questions:
- Do you tend to confront without thinking?
- Do you have trouble mustering the emotional energy to confront?
- Do you find that you confront too harshly, or with too little force?
- Does your current confrontation style work for you?
- Are you usually happy with the result?
Take the time necessary to learn how to resolve conflict well. It is one of the most important marital skills you will ever need.
How do you resolve conflict in relationships? Are you doing confrontation well?