Set Aside Time to Resolve Conflicts
Now that the two of you know how to identify conflicts, you need to learn how to resolve them. The first and very important step is making sure you have each other's undivided attention by setting aside time to resolve differences. Having a regular time to discuss differences is crucial to a good working relationship for two basic reasons. The first reason is that each person knows that he or she will always have a chance to vent frustrations before they build up.
A scheduled discussion time prevents problems from festering and growing out of control. If both people know that Monday evenings from 8 to 8:30 are always discussion times, they will never worry that their concerns won't be heard. The other advantage to a regular discussion time is that it creates some distance from the problem. By talking about a problem away from the heat of the moment, both people can be more objective.
If you can't complete an argument, make sure to write down your thoughts so you can pick up where you left off.
Don't waste your time trying to discuss something at the moment of conflict—this can be non-productive. You might be so angry that your perception is distorted. Waiting to discuss conflicts during a regular scheduled time will help both of you be more objective about an issue.
Discussing a problem right when it's happening guarantees a more heated argument. When either person is very emotional about an issue, that emotion can interfere with the resolution. Waiting to discuss a problem will ensure that both people are as calm and objective as possible.
How much time should you set aside for discussion? Thirty minutes a week works well for many couples. The maximum amount of time we advise is one hour. If you cannot resolve an issue in one hour, you probably need to “sleep on it” to gain perspective. It's important to pick a convenient time for both of you. Times like right before you have to dash off for work or after your usual bedtime are not going to give you the calm, uninterrupted time you need to settle your differences.
It might seem like a waste of time to do this every week. Actually, it's a time-saver, because you don't need to spend time fighting throughout the week. By having a scheduled time for conflict resolution, disagreements will take up a very small part of your week.
Most couples don't plan how they will resolve conflicts because they cling to the notion that in a successful relationship there aren't any conflicts. Nothing could be further from the truth! It's precisely because successful couples take the time to resolve their conflicts that they are successful.
More on: Marriage and Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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