Run away! Okay, not really. But as a child, that’s what I had learned. Every time my parents fought (often), my mom’s reaction was “I’m leaving!” So, later in life, that’s all I knew how to do. And to make it worse, I learned that if one felt passionate about something, then you SHOULD argue to make your point. My poor boyfriend (when I was 19), who was so sweet and caring, had to deal with me hopping out of the car at a red light when I didn’t like what he said. Later, I would yell at him saying, “If you cared, you’d fight” (meaning he’d argue his point with me). Oh dear. No wonder my relationships never worked…until now.
Thank God (& Pastor Church Smith, Jr.) for encouraging me to read the Bible and teaching me God’s Word which taught me an entirely different way to handle conflict.
First, remember that Ephesians 4:25 & 26 has some great advice: “speak truth” and “in your anger do not sin.” With that in mind, if you are in a relationship, make an agreement that when one gets angry, they will say to the other, “I am angry” in a nice and straightforward fashion. Agree that when those words are spoken that the situation is taken seriously, and that you will both join into a focused conversation about the problem. Next, state your problem as well as your solution. Remove assumptions about how you think the other feels. Be completely honest. Also, if it is difficult for you to speak calmly, try walking away long enough to write down what you want to say and then use your written words to help you stay focused on the solution so that you avoid snowballing and exacerbating the situation (let the other know why you are walking away). If you want an apology, ask for an apology. If you want some specific chore done, make it clear exactly what you want. Don’t threaten to leave or abandon the other. In addition, may I suggest reading two very short stories in the book, Right to the Soul. One is called “Happy to be Stuck with You…Really?” and the other is “Powerful Words.” There is unmistakable wisdom in those stories. Lastly, before you speak, pray “God, place a guard over my mouth” (Psalm 141:3) and “God, make Your desires mine.” These are powerful protectors against having your conflict turn into a slaying with one’s tongue.
Lastly, I’m grateful for my husband who after almost 8 years of marriage has shared my desire to handle conflict fairly and for the good of us. Yes, we are ONE, and we have learned to look each other in the eye, get over being embarrassed about what you might have done wrong, say you’re sorry, and never give up. It’s a blessing that I thank God for every day, and I wish the same for all of you readers.