Resolving Marriage Conflicts so Both Spouses Win
- Thursday, May 15, 2008
Can a couple in conflict ever reach a win/lose solution? What if a husband gets a new job in a different state that is going to make his life easier and the family's life easier, but the wife doesn't think it would be a wise move? They spend over a month in heated debate on why they should go or why they should stay. Both have legitimate reasons for their arguments, but they are clearly nowhere near a win/win solution. What do they do? How can they possibly reach a win/win solution when they are so far apart? Do they even need to reach a win/win solution?
If these questions don't seem to have an answer, then try this one: Are you—as a married couple—on the same team? Hopefully your answer is yes, "we are on the same team". If you truly believe you're on the same team, then try answering the original question again. Is there ever a scenario where the resolution of your conflict might end up being a win/lose solution? If you're on the same team, then you know what the answer is … NO!
Think about the St. Louis Rams. They're a sports team and we are all comfortable with the fact that they ALL win and they ALL lose as teammates. Kurt Warner could throw for 800 yards, 17 touchdowns, 500 rushing yards, and 9 rushing TD's—but if the Rams ultimately lose the game, then it doesn't matter how great Kurt played he still gets a loss like the rest of the team.
If a married couple is on the same "team" then it must be true for them as well. If one person in a marriage feels like the solution is a "loss" then the whole team loses. It would be terribly confusing if the NFL gave Kurt and the offense a win for the game and the defense a loss. It wouldn't be logical. The same logic must apply to a marriage.
So how do you reach a win/win solution?
A couple we know hit the "wall of conflict" one day as they were discussing Cheryl's tendency to be late. Scott was growing more frustrated by the month. They had been married for almost ten years and the problem was gaining momentum. They were both storing up greater amounts of anger. Scott had resorted to little sarcastic comments (escalation) if it looked as if Cheryl was running late. This would subsequently result in Cheryl not talking for long periods of time (withdrawal). If this pattern was allowed to continue, then they stood a great chance of weakening their relationship.
They first agreed to use LUV Talk. Watch how they reached a "Win / Win" solution to the conflict in minutes, without actually trying to do so.
Cheryl asked to be the "customer" first and Scott agreed to be the "employee." He began by saying, "Welcome to the Smith home, may I take your order?"
"I feel very frustrated by the pressure you put on me when I'm going as fast as I can," Cheryl said. Scott tried to repeat what he'd heard in his own words, "You feel frustrated because you're getting ready so slow and I put pressure on you." [This is why this communication method is so effective because it resolves miscommunication] "That not quite what I said," said Cheryl calmly, "I'm getting ready as fast as I can and I feel frustrated when you put pressure on me to go faster." "You feel frustrated when I try to get you moving faster as you're getting ready in the morning," repeated Scott. "That right!" agreed Cheryl.
Next, Scott asked Cheryl if she wanted anything else with her order. She continued, "I have so many things to do before we leave, I feel frustrated because I could use your help." Scott then repeated her words, "You feel frustrated because you could use my help to finish all the things you need done before leaving the house." After going back and forth, Cheryl explained that she felt understood and validated. [Again, Scott didn't have to "agree" with what Cheryl was saying; instead, his job was to honor and validate his wife's feelings.]
The couple then traded places and Cheryl began with the same invitation, "Welcome to the Smith home, may I take your order?" The funny part about this exercise is what happened next. Scott's first statement actually solved their problem. "I feel frustrated because I always get ready before you and then I just sit around waiting for you. It's boring," he articulated.
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