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10 Steps to Resolve Couple Conflict.

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Conflict is inevitable in all human relationships. The Word of God recognizes this and encourages believers. “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you also must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13) Happily married couples do not avoid disagreements, they resolve them while remaining respectful of each other and thereby actually strengthen their relationship. Follow these ten steps to help resolve conflict and avoid destructive patterns.

  1. Set a time and a place for discussion. Don’t open up discussion right before leaving for work or school. Don’t launch it while getting ready for bed either. There needs to be enough time to finish a discussion without pressure and you both need to be rested and focused.

  2. Define the problem–be specific. Avoid blaming or making accusations here such as, “you always…” or “you never…” Focus on the problem, not the person.

  3. List the ways each of you contribute to the problem. Own your own slice of the pie, don’t put it all on your spouse. Oftentimes by being silent, a spouse actually contributes to a problem because their partner doesn’t know it's a problem.

  4. List past attempts to resolve the issue that were not successful. Bickering, nagging, the silent treatment, revenge, shouting, withholding affection, withdrawing emotionally, are among the most ineffective ways to resolve conflict.

  5. Brainstorm 10 possible solutions to the problem. Don’t judge or criticize any of the suggestions at this point. Be creative.

  6. Discuss and evaluate each of these possible solutions. Be objective.

  7. Agree on one solution to try–it may not be your first choice but be open to trying it.

  8. Agree on how each of you will work toward this solution. Be specific. Don’t say something like, “I’ll wash the dishes more often.” What does “more often” mean? Put a number on it like once a week or once a day.

  9. Set up another meeting to discuss your progress. Couples often come up with great ideas together but fail to hold themselves accountable. This is crucial!

  10. Reward each other for progress. When you see your partner making a positive contribution toward a solution, praise them. You always get more of what you praise in your partner. Catch them doing good–instead of nagging or lamenting their slips. Be patient–it takes about 6 weeks to change a habit and adopt a new one.

Enlist the kids to help. I knew a dad who had a problem with swearing. They put a jar on the kitchen table. Anytime someone in the family swore, they had to put a dollar in the jar. No objections were allowed. At the end of the month, the family used the money to go out for ice cream. In one month, the air was no longer blue in their house.

It is easy to find blame. It’s harder to find solutions and work for them. Anyone can find fault with their spouse–it’s an international sport. But happy couples look for solutions, find them, and put them to work in their homes.


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