How To Avoid Conflict in Marriage
By Pastor Ron Jones, D.D., © Titus Institute, 2003
1. Begin by listening to each other’s concerns.
When you want to make a decision together and avoid conflict, you should begin by listening to each other’s desires, concerns, and values about the issue. This si the goal of your first discussion. It is not to make the decision, but to gather enough information from each other so that a decision can be made that reflects both of your desires, values, and concerns.
You want to understand how your mate feels and to express how you feel honestly and openly.
In major decisions, it is helpful if no decisions are made at the first meeting. Let each of you give input only.
You should focus on valuing your mate’s opinion by listening and understanding it rather than defensively attacking it.
If your mate has a concern it is important simply because it is a concern of your mate’s who is your life partner (and a parent of your children). It does not have to be wise in your mind to be valuable.
A helpful way of showing your concern for your mate’s opinion is to ask him/her, “How do you feel about this” or “Do you see any barriers to what you think we should do?’
2. Focus on finding a mutually agreeable solution.
In decision-making together, your goal should be to make a decision that reflects equally both of your desires, concerns, and values as life partners.
Keep working until you make a decision that is agreeable to both of you. Each of you should be willing to compromise in areas you do not feel strongly about. Don’t treat every one of your own desires or concerns equally. Some things you are more concerned about than others. Compromise as much as you can. Focus on the big things.
Try to never make a decision unless you both agree. Let each of you focus on the needs of the other.
In Personal Habits and Preferences
Many issues that arise in your marriage are a result of personal habits or preferences. One of you likes to eat dinner around 5 p.m. Your mate likes to eat dinner around 7 p.m. What are you going to do about that? You have to make a decision about what you are going to do. You want a house that has a lot of light in it. Your mate wants a house that is warm and inviting.
When you marry, you have to bring all of your habits and preferences together with all of your mate's and blend them together into a harmonious set of habits and preferences.
How do you do that?
1. Divide all of your own habits and preferences into three categories:
a. Non-negotiable issues – these are the ones in which you feel “I don’t want to bend because it is so difficult for me to handle it.”
b. Negotiable issues – these are the ones in which you feel “I am willing to bend and come to a middle ground.”
c. Don’t Care Issues – these are the issue in which you feel “I don’t care, so if you do, let’s go with it.”
In your mind, put as many of your habits and preferences into the “Don’t Care “ category. Don’t make every issue a big one.
Then, if a habit or preference doesn’t fit into that category, try to put it into the “Negotiable” category.
Only a few habits and preferences should be in the “non-negotiable” category.
If you practice these principles you will find they will be very effective at avoiding conflict in your marriage.