Who doesn’t love a good fight? (Most of us, I would guess.) Though there are some who thrive on personal attacks or heated debates, I would venture to guess that most of us prefer pleasant, go-with-the-flow, drama-free interactions with those we love. Well, too bad for the majority of us… conflict is everywhere!
As annoying as it is when we are dealing with it, conflict signifies how different we all are from each other. If we all agreed on everything, that would mean there was only one point of view in the entire world… which would likely mean only one personality in the whole world… which would go on to mean that the majority of career fields would be vacant, inventions never created, and no one would grow from being around each other.
Have a Conflict
In order to prepare well for engagement and marriage, Eric and I recommend that our couples have at least one hearty conflict before committing to each other. Our undergraduate Marriage and Family professor also admonished his classes to fight before getting married. It seems counterproductive to get in a fight with someone you are hoping to spend the rest of your life with, but there is a lot of wisdom in my old college professor’s advice. You will experience conflict in your marriage. Whether it comes in the form of throwing dishes at each other (and we hope this is not the case) or in scoffs, eye rolling, and “inside voice” arguing, somehow, somewhere you and your sweet thing are going to fight.
“Why would I want to fight with the love of my life? I cannot imagine fighting with such a perfect creature!” Aw, that is really sweet… and unrealistic. Before long, his or her halo is going to tarnish a bit and you are going to find yourself annoyed by how long she takes in the bathroom, how much time he spends fishing, how she talks your ears off after you come home from work, or how never blows his nose when he needs to. We are all different and we will not always come to the same conclusions or want the same outcomes.
Fighting before engagement serves as a training ground. First of all, it gives you insight into how your sweetie fights. Does he withdraw? Is he aggressive? Does she immediately cry? Does she leave the room and call friends?
Secondly, it gives you a chance to practice conflict resolutions skills; and, since love relationships are different than other relationships, you will not always approach a conflict with your significant other the way you would with a co-worker or friend.
Eric and I have learned, over time, that when we are in the heat of battle, it is best to take a break. If we can get away from each other for about twenty to thirty minutes, we can then calm down, think more clearly, and come back together and discuss the situation rationally. As much as Eric wants to have conflicts resolved immediately, he has learned that it takes us longer to work out disagreements if we keep arguing than if we decide to take a break and work it out after some breathing time.
Lastly, resolving some conflicts prior to engagement proves to you that you and your sweetie have what it takes to work through your problems. If your first fight happens when you are two weeks away from the altar, or when you are on your honeymoon, you may panic and think, “Have I made a terrible mistake by agreeing to be with this person for life?!?!” If you have several conflicts (or at least one good, solid fight) before you get engaged, and you successfully work through them, you can go into marriage thinking, “We have fought before and we have learned how to work through disagreements, so we know we will be able to work through conflicts that arise in the future. We are armed and ready to go!”
Practice Resolving Conflict
When an argument pops up in your relationship, instead of simply being annoyed at the aggravation of being “out of sync” with each other, use it as an opportunity to practice conflict resolution skills. When you realize you are heading down a potentially dangerous road, stop and take a breath. Take a physical step back (if you can), and put the brakes on your mouths.
Identify the problem (arguments often start off about one thing and then handfuls of other “offenses” come up as the fight escalates), each take turns talking about it, and after you are both thoroughly heard, you can work on mapping out a solution. Fights are aggravating, especially if you are in a hurry, but instead of looking at them as “all bad” use those unavoidable conflicts as a training ground for marriage. ~smile~
Be Confident in your Ability to Resolve Conflicts Effectively
Not only do we recommend fighting before getting engaged, but we also recommend being confident in your ability to work through conflicts. Some arguments start with an accusation, then move to arguing, then shouting, then a few hours or days of separation, then flowers or an “I’m sorry,” and then making up and going around the bend again until the next fight.
The problem with this exchange is the couple let their fight drag on without effectively communicating with each other – and then they “made up” without actually resolving anything. They simply put some space between them, cooled off, and then came back together after the dust settled. It may feel resolved now, but it is still lingering beneath the surface. And the next time something goes wrong between them, their inner fuses will grow shorter.
If they continue to smooth problems over without resolving them, their fuses will continue to get cut shorter. Before long, any little offense will set one or both of them off. Why? Because they are not resolving conflicts (i.e., dissolving the issues), they are simply burying them. Nothing gets laid to rest and inner turmoil grows.
Unresolved Conflict is Like Garbage
Probably the easiest way to think of resolving conflict versus burying it is to think about your garbage. After a week of collecting trash, most of us are more than ready for the trash collector to come and take it out of our lives; but, who really wants the job of taking it out to the street? Anyone who has ever had the task of taking out the trash has a story of “the time the bag leaked” or “the time the stench almost made me gag.”
So, if we avoided putting our trash outside and simply threw a blanket over it to get it out of sight, what would happen? The contents would disintegrate and a horrible smell would fill the room. If the bag is leaking, it might do substantial damage to your floor requiring a deep cleaning or perhaps a complete replacement. Before long, no one would be able to live in the house because of the overwhelming smell of decomposing meats and leftover traces of sour dairy. Not to mention the space all that trash would take up in the house.
Leaving trash inside the house is like leaving your issues unresolved. They may be hidden, but they are still there and the pile is growing by the week! Pretty soon you won’t be able to ignore it anymore. However, taking the trash out on a weekly basis is like resolving conflicts. It is not fun when we do it, but if we do it regularly it is far less messy and our relationship can stay clean and tidy. So before you decide to get engaged, please practice resolving your conflicts successfully and often. Don’t let the garbage pile up between you! ~smile~
Have you and your sweetie had any fights yet? Are you happy with how they were resolved?