Conflict Resolution in Loving Relationships

In the fairy tales, the hero and heroine walk off to get married, and “live happily ever after.” In real life, we know that it’s not quite so simple. They have to die someday, for one thing: they are human after all, and man is mortal. And that’s not the only difference between fairy tales and real life.

In real life, real women have days when they just don’t feel happy. In his book Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus, John Gray cites research indicating that women have a monthly self-esteem cycle that rises and falls. Sometimes she feels on top of the world, and sometimes she just doesn’t. And then there’s pregnancy—raging hormones, strange symptoms, weird random pains—pregnancy can be difficult, and not being able to be pregnant when you want to can be even more difficult.

So real life isn’t as simple as the fairy tales make it sound. Marriage does not mean that you and your spouse will be confirmed in virtue, and suddenly have no human faults or failings, no mood swings, and no financial difficulties.

But that’s no reason you can’t be happy ever after with your spouse, as long as you are both willing to put in some work.

Here’s a few tips to help you deal with those days when you and your husband are just driving each other up the wall.

#1 Realize that it’s okay

So one day, you just feel like you can’t stand your husband anymore. Maybe yesterday, or a week ago, he was the love of your life and perfect in every way, but now, you can’t imagine what you could have seen in him, and you feel like everything you are doing is annoying him, too. Panic might set in: Love is gone! Oh no! What are we going to do?

First of all, you need to take a deep breath and realize that this is perfectly normal. People who live together drive each other insane sometimes. That’s just the way humans are. Even saints who spend all their time trying to be perfect and practice charity towards their neighbor end up rubbing some people the wrong way.So if you and your husband are bothering each other one day, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over, it doesn’t mean it’s even in trouble. You don’t need to put a marriage counselor on speed dial. Your situation is normal, and almost definitely temporary–as long as you handle it right.

#2 Try to identify an underlying cause

Sometimes, after you take a deep breath and remember that it’s not the end of the world, or even of your happy marriage, it becomes very easy to identify the issue. Sometimes it’s as simple as lunch being a really long time ago. After a nice dinner, it’s possible everything will be better. Sometimes you are worried about something and so your stress is rubbing off on your husband who reacts by getting stressed and thus stresses you out still more. This is very common.

Sometimes, though, there isn’t an easily identifiable underlying cause.

#3 Give it some time

Sometimes men need some time alone to regroup, solve a problem, or just relax. If you and your husband are driving each other insane, and it’s a recent thing—not a chronic problem for the last five years (in which case maybe you should try getting some help) then it’s possible that your man just needs some time to regroup. If he’s the mechanical sort, he might need to go tinker with whatever machine he’s working on at the moment. He might need to go out with some of his guy friends, especially if he rarely does that, or if it’s been longer than usual. Or he might need to go sit by himself and read a book for a few hours.

When he gets back from whatever his retreat is, you will probably find him as affectionate, considerate, and pleasant as he ever was. And it might not take as long as you think.

If you can take the opportunity to do something you enjoy at the same time—like hanging out with one of your buddies, or doing a project you enjoy, you might find that all you both needed was a very, very small amount of distance, and that your appreciation of each other is redoubled afterwards.

#4 Be careful how you say things

Sometimes you can’t wait. Sometimes you really do need to discuss a difficult topic right now, or you really need emotional support right now, even if your man is not really in the mood.

This can go well, too, but it takes some care. Men hate having their competence questioned, and hate being insulted. To attack the man’s ego is the fastest way to lose his love.

A lot of women have no desire to insult their husbands or boyfriends but manage to do it anyway, especially when they are not feeling great themselves.

Here are a couple of tips to avoid insulting your husband while you are having a hard time getting along:

a) Express your needs as your needs and not as his duties.

Suppose you need to discuss some issue that has come up, and he’s not in the mood, but it’s urgent. Try saying something like, “I’m really sorry, but I really need to talk about this right now. It won’t take long.” This is straightforward and non-accusatory. It simply states a fact. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s going to make him super happy—he might end up feeling bad because he knows it’s something he should be doing and doesn’t want to, but the point is to avoid giving him the impression that you are judging him and finding him wanting. If he takes your statement as a judgment on himself, that’s one thing. You don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be—you love the guy, right?

Try to avoid saying things like: “Why do you always avoid these discussions?” Or “You’re supposed to be the man in this house. Why are you trying to get out of making decisions?” These comments might seem innocuous, and justified, but they attack the man’s self-esteem. And the last thing a man needs is having his wife attack his self-esteem. It is hard for a man to love someone who makes him feel like a loser. These sorts of comments will inevitably escalate your conflict into something worse. Men in general, good men especially, want to feel that they are protecting and providing for their families—not doing chores assigned by their wives.

b) Be straightforward and calm.

Sometimes calm isn’t possible, but at least try to avoid hysterical exaggeration and raised voices. Also, nearly all men ever surveyed have stated that they prefer direct questions and direct requests to hints and vague suggestions. So if you really need something, just say so, and understand that if you husband loves you, he appreciates knowing what you need so that he can give it for you, and that if you don’t tell him what you need, he really genuinely won’t know. He might be grumpy about doing a particular thing at a particular moment, but if you have a solid relationship, and ask in a non-judgmental way, your husband will appreciate knowing your needs and being able to meet them.

c) Say thank you afterwards

If your husband does something for you, or talks over a difficult topic when he wasn’t in the mood, you should thank him afterwards. Thank him, and tell him it made you feel better. Men in general have a different way of looking at the world than women generally do, and it helps if you can give him a window into your world and how he made it better with what he did. (Also, if you show your appreciation for what he does for you, he’s more likely to repeat the behavior in the future, and who wouldn’t want that?)

Even the happiest married couples have their rough moments, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy. If you can handle those moments well, they will actually strengthen your union, deepen your love, and contribute to your mutual success as married people.

 

Some resources for helping your relationships thrive. (These are affiliate links)

This book describes how men (in general) and women (in general) react differently to different things. Its goal is to help people deal with the men and women in their own lives.

Yes, I recommend this book a lot, but that’s because it’s so good. Even if your relationship is marvelous, you can get something out of this book.

This is one I only read recently. Written by a woman who interviewed and surveyed dozens of men, it talks about what men want, how they think, and how women come across to men. I read it in one day. It’s a fun, easy read with a lot of interesting information. In the companion volume For Men Only, she explains to men how women work. 

A classic book on interpersonal relationships of all sorts. You might be surprised to discover that you’re making all sorts of mistakes in dealing with people.

And sometimes, the solution to our problems is chocolate…. or wine…. But Amazon doesn’t seem to sell wine…

Ten Questions to Ask Before You Get Married

10 questions before you get married

So, you want to get married, and there’s this guy… and he’s cute, and he’s nice… Is he the one? How are you supposed to know for sure? Well, one answer is that you won’t—not until you’ve married him, for better for worse. Then, he’s the only one you’ve got, so he’d better be the one.

But before you take the leap, and make the vows, it’s good to get some information on the prospective husband. Here are ten questions that should help you not be disappointed.

Ask Him:

Does he share your values?

This is the first and most important question. Does he agree on what the priorities are? This is a good question to ask your boyfriend fairly early on in your relationship.

Does he share your religion? If religion is important to you, then you are going to want a spouse whose religion is the same as yours. Otherwise it’s likely you will end up with constant misunderstandings and confusion.

Does he ask you to do things you’re uncomfortable doing? Things that you don’t approve of? IF he does, this is a bad sign, and you should almost definitely not pursue the relationship further.

Other questions you might want to ask would involve his attitude toward having and raising children, the relationship between husband and wife and their roles in marriage, how he thinks about money. These are issues that are important to most people. If there is anything else that you consider a core value, do be sure to discuss that too. If eating sushi every Wednesday night at precisely 7:13 pm is something you consider vitally important, you should probably make sure he’s okay with that.

Does he have a goal?

Sometimes people are planning on getting married, but don’t look beyond that point in their lives. Then, once they’re married, they have nothing to strive for. And having no goal to work for is bad for people. Before you marry a man, find out if he has a goal beyond getting married to you. And make sure that goal is something you can invest in too. Being able to work together for a goal as a married couple will strengthen your relationship so much.

Why does he want to get married?

This can be a revealing question. Make sure that his reason for getting married is not because he wants a slave to do all his housework for him. He should want a companion on life’s journey, not an ornament or a minion.

Ask friends:

Is he a psycho?

Sometimes a person with a psychological or personality disorder seems perfectly normal. I suggest investigating the person you are thinking about marrying. (Of course, if you’ve known him all your life, you should know already, but it never hurts to make sure)

Now of course, this is not a question you would ask your boyfriend. Instead, do an amateur background check by asking his friends, siblings, and roommates, if he has any. As long as you keep it simple, and don’t spy on him, steal his phone and call all his contacts or read all his emails or something crazy like that, this is a sane and normal precaution, and he shouldn’t take it the wrong way.

Does he have good manners?

We assume that since he’s trying to impress you, your boyfriend treats you well. If he doesn’t, dump him now! But will he keep treating you well, once you’ve married him and he’s not trying to win you over anymore? There’s only one way to find out.

When you are dating, be sure to arrange to spend time with your boyfriend and some other people. If he treats you well, and everyone else badly, you can be fairly sure that he will treat you badly too, once he’s not trying to win you over anymore. If, on the other hand, he treats other people well, and other people like him and think he has good manners, you can safely assume that he has habitually good manners, and that he will likely treat you with courtesy and consideration after you are married too.

Ask Yourself:

Do you admire him?

They say that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If this is a weighted average, it is heavily weighted in favor of your spouse. You will probably end up thinking and acting a lot like your husband after you are married. That’s just the way people work. So, are you okay with that? Would you be better if you were more like him? And will you be able to set him up as an example for your kids? Will they be better for knowing him?

How does he deal with you when you’re upset?

A good indication of how your boyfriend thinks of you is how he treats you at your worst. When you are crying or angry or otherwise upset, you probably aren’t your most attractive. If he is impatient and uncaring with you when you are upset, this could definitely weaken a future relationship. Especially if you are going to have kids. If my experience is anything to go by, then you will probably cry more during your first pregnancy than you did in the five years leading up to it. You will want a man who can stay calm and reassuring during your emotional meltdowns—because if you’re realistic with yourself, you know you’re going to have them sometimes.

Is he resilient? How will he handle an emergency?

Related to how he handles your emotional upsets is how he handles stress and emergencies. This is very difficult to know unless you are in an emergency with your boyfriend—which we all hope won’t happen. Though the idea has crossed my mind that dating would be a more productive exercise if people who were thinking about getting married chose unpleasant activities to do together, rather than pleasant ones. You’d find out so much more about your companion that way.

Now if your boyfriend is a police officer, EMT, army medic, or fireman, you can probably be pretty sure he handles emergencies well and would be a good guy to have around in a pinch. But if not, you might have to base your answer to this question on other things. If your boyfriend handles your emotional upsets well, then that’s a good sign. If he’s willing to go into situations that are outside of his comfort zone without freaking out, that’s a very good sign. And if he can admit his mistakes, that means he’s probably willing to take a chance in a risky situation, too. Which leads us to our next question.

Does he admit mistakes?

When I was dating the man I married, I remember being happy to note that first, we argued, but in a civilized way, and that I won some arguments, and he won some arguments. And that’s the way it should be. You don’t want a pushover who agrees with everything you say, but you also don’t want a man who stubbornly insists that he is right even when he’s wrong.

A person who is intellectually honest will be willing to recognize truth wherever it is found, whether in your ideas, or in his own. This will allow you and your spouse to have meaningful, constructive arguments, rather than bitter, pointless ones.

The next question is related, and is in some ways the most important of all.

Does he have a growth mindset?

Now, your boyfriend is definitely not perfect, and neither are you. And that is completely okay. If you are holding out for a perfect man, you aren’t ever going to get married. And the same goes for holding out for perfect women.

But the question you want to ask yourself is not, “Is he perfect?” but “Is he trying?” You want a man who is trying to improve, because if he is really trying to improve, then you won’t grow tired of him as you find out all his faults. Instead, you will find new things to admire every day of your lives together.

 

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