If you’re like me, you’ve let your mouth fly wide-open in times of conflict with your mate (or others), only to reveal the manipulative and prideful intentions behind your words.
For me, these sticky situations erupt when I had the best of intentions, really. Ironically, I think my words will bring clarity and understanding to my spouse (cue the sound of angels singing from heaven).
However, all I’m really offering my mate is a sticky web intended to capture him in his own words.
And once my anger and pride settle back down, I can see just what a tangled mess I’ve made. A mess that’s binding both myself and my spouse to the worst side of ourselves.
Ironically, I choose to go this route out of a desire to be “Christlike”—pointing my spouse to God and His word. #Biblethumper
Or, more accurately, pointing him to my version of it! 😉
But all I really end up doing is condemning him instead of inspiring him. #marriagefail
Sadly, I’ve found myself in this sticky situation far more often than a Christian counselor and pastor’s wife should! I really should know better!
Thankfully, the overabundance of messes that I’ve made over the years—decades, really—also give me greater insight into how to get unstuck when the web entangles my heart and marriage. I hope you’ll allow me to share some tips I’ve learned that you might want to apply in your life.
6 Steps for Getting Unstuck in a Marriage Conflict
1. Ask for a “Time-Out”
When I feel my emotions overwhelming me, I respectfully tell my husband that I’m feeling too emotional to talk further and need to pull away to process and pray before we talk again. My husband has seen how this has helped me.
But I must say it to him in a way that clearly indicates I will return to the subject at hand once my heart is ready.
Scientists have now confirmed through research that when we feel angry the Amygdala in our brains gets “hijacked” for at least 18 minutes. This actually drops our IQ by about 15 points during that timeframe, making rationality and diplomacy very elusive.
Not only that but . . .
[bctt tweet=”Perspective can rarely be gained in a moment fraught with emotion. We must step back to see clearly. #prayer #prayandprocess” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
2. Surrender the Burden of Your Angry Feelings to God
I recently studied select psalms of David in my own quiet time and am currently offering this study in a private FB group. You can ask to join here.
And I remember how well one of David’s psalms captured the raw emotion he poured out to the Lord.
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. —Psalm 142:3-4
Talk about “real and raw!” 😉
When your emotions are in turmoil, you will struggle to see how you’re acting or what the truth of your situation is. For me, when I’m feeling anxious and angry, no matter how I try to say something, it usually comes across as harsh and even hateful to my spouse.
But when you and I come to God like David—open and vulnerable—we not only unburden ourselves, we also get to see things from God’s perspective.
When we do this, we can also be more open and gracious with our spouses—breaking down the barrier that the conflict erected. Just don’t let this time of prayer processing go for too long. You don’t want your spouse to feel like you’re sweeping the issue under the rug.
[bctt tweet=”Find ways to be more open and gracious with your spouse whenever you get stuck in a conflict at MM. #conflict #anger” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
3. Agree on a Time to Talk Again
Soon after I’ve prayed and found perspective and peace, I ask my husband if we can schedule a time to talk.
But if your time of prayer processing gets bogged down for more than a day or two, reach out to schedule this whether you’re finished or not. Giving yourself a deadline will keep you from delaying a conversation that will likely be hard but is so very necessary.
4. When you Have the Talk, Focus on Your Negative Contribution First
After choosing an optimum time and distraction-free place, come to this conversation with humility—focusing on what you did to hurt your spouse and worsen the conflict.
This is HUGE for getting unstuck and keeping you unstuck!
If I try to talk to my husband in a way that communicates that he is the main problem or the problem I want to address first, the conversation will go from smooth back to stickier than ever in no time.
5. Make Listening Your Paramount Concern and Focus
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, —James 1:19 (emphasis mine).
You need to remind yourself that you cannot know all that your mate sees or feels without really listening to him/her first before forming your opinion.
When you don’t listen well at the outset, it’s what I call “premature interpretation” and always leads to frustration for both parties! 😉
Also, make sure not to form a rebuttal, even if the rebuttal is only in your head! Take it captive (2 Cor. 10:5) as soon as it surfaces!
Be humble enough to “sit” with your mate’s words for minutes, hours—even days. And during the conversation, repeat the wording as closely as possible to your spouse to confirm that you heard him/her right before proceeding.
When you do this, it will allow you to hear yourself. The person you’re probably more open to at this time of conflict! 😉
Doing this will give you a new pathway for thinking about your spouse’s words, as well as giving you the ability to feel how your spouse is feeling.
[bctt tweet=”Sit with your spouse’s feelings so you can gain greater understanding and empathy for what he/she feels, helping to break down the barrier or misunderstanding in marriage. ” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
6. Commit to Contemplating Your Spouse’s Disclosures “Until”
Contemplating means doing more prayer processing days later about what your spouse shared during the conversation.
Ask God to open your eyes to see and heart to feel what your spouse has been feeling. Then ask God to use your spouse’s words to reveal the truth about “you” and how you need to change.
Pray about this until you begin to practice the new attitudes and behaviors God has brought to your attention. Then come back here and tell me if this has helped get you unstuck and feeling closer to your spouse!
I truly want to hear from you!
What is your biggest challenge when a “sticky conflict” arises with your mate?
How do you think your mate would respond if you did these steps the next time you get stuck?
Here are some lovely linkups I join –Remember Me Monday, Legacy Linkup, Inspire Me Monday, Purposeful Faith,Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements Linkup, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies Wednesday, Tune in Thursday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, and Faith on Fire Friday.
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