It was St. Francis of Assisi who prayed, “Grant that I may not so much seek to be understood, as to understand….” This simple prayer and perspective would prevent a majority of conflicts in marriage.
Early in our marriage, as two first-borns, we were quick to try to make our point and “win” the disagreement. Gaining understanding wasn’t on our agenda, shutting each other down and proving them wrong was the goal. Looking back we can identify it for what it was: selfishness, pride, sin—control.
How we wish we had endeavored early in our relationship to listen to understand before responding! You may already be a pro at this—if so, way to go! For the “pros” or the “rookies” here are some reminders as you head into a conflict:
1. Say a prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to give you peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Let your spirit be yielded to Him in your life. (See Galatians 5:22-23)
2. Before giving your opinion, ask questions to be sure you fully understand what your spouse is saying. Start your questions with, “Help me understand what you mean by…” or “Are you saying …?”
3. Try to discern the emotion behind their point of view. Is there a frustration? An injustice? Fear? Insecurity? Understanding their emotional position can help you to respond to the root issue as well as the stated issue.
4. Be attentive to your own emotional state. If you sense you are getting amped up, ask for a break before you respond. You might say something like, “I need 10 minutes to collect my thought…can you give me a few moments and I’ll be right back.” Then go and pray, think, perhaps jot down a few thoughts…and return as promised.
5. Be patient with your spouse’s response. They may not follow points 1-4 above. Their response is their responsibility. Just wait your turn again, speak softly and honor the relationship.
6. Look for the win-win. If possible, seek a compromise in the issue where both of you are satisfied. It may not always work out that way…but the effort will help your spouse trust you the next time around to be looking out for their interest as well.
Simple steps, but powerful tools as you make the move to Build Your Marriage!