What do you think the chances are that Cinderella and the Caveman will agree on what happened in a conflict and move through the resolution steps smoothly? Zero. Absolutely zero. In fact, it’s even less than zero. We’re talking negative numbers.

For this reason, Cinderella and the Caveman must learn a new conflict pattern that will help them navigate through their differences to a successful conclusion.

Believe Your Spouse

Your new conflict pattern will be based on one essential skill: You absolutely must listen to and believe your spouse’s truth.

When your spouse is talking and expressing her version of what happened and her feelings, your job is to accept what she’s saying as the truth. It is her truth. It is the way it happened for her. Period.

Two qualities of love in the classic 1 Corinthians 13 passage apply here. According to verse 5, love “does not seek its own.” It’s not just about you; it’s also about your spouse and what she thinks and feels. And verse 7 reminds us that love “believes all things.” You need to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and believe what she says.

Is this easy to do? No way! Does this skill come naturally? Hardly. By nature, we do just the opposite. Here’s what usually happens.

A married couple is discussing an incident that took place between them one hour before. We’ll call them Bill and Bertha. Both spouses were present during this incident. Neither spouse has a history of serious emotional illness. Neither spouse is known to be a pathological liar.

Bertha:  “Bill, I want to talk about what happened in the bathroom a little while ago. I’m angry that you accused me of being a gossip.”        

Bill: (He cuts in.) “Bertha, what are you talking about? First of all, we were in the kitchen, not the bathroom.” 

Bertha: “I think I know what room we were in. I distinctly remember the sound of the shower.”     

Bill: “That sound was the kitchen faucet running. And I certainly didn’t say you were a gossip. I said I wish you hadn’t told your mother what you and I talked about two nights ago.”

Bertha: “You called me a gossip and don’t deny it.”

Bill: “I do deny it. I did not use that word.”

Bertha: “Did so.”

Bill: “Did not.”

Bertha: “You are lying!”

Bill: “Lying? You’re the one who’s lying!”

This conversation isn’t going so well, is it? What do you think the odds are that this couple will get down to the real issues and resolve this conflict? Oh, about a million to one. And that’s being generous.

They are making the same mistake most Cinderellas and Cavemen make in a conflict conversation: They are fighting over two versions of the same event. Ever do that? Of course you have. We all have, over and over again.

They are quibbling over details and semantics. Who cares if it was in the bathroom or the kitchen? That’s a rabbit trail! They are incorrectly assuming that there is just one true version of what happened.

The fact is, every conflict includes two truths, two true versions of what happened. You have your truth—how you experienced the event. Your spouse has her truth—how she experienced the event. You are right and she is right. You are both right!

Please understand you and your spouse will never—and I mean never—agree on all the details of an event and what happened. The event could be important or trivial; it could be a conflict situation or not. One Cinderella and one Caveman will always see it differently. It’s part of the mystery of being married.