One of my most favorite quotes is by Max Lucado, and he says, “Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.”
LET THAT SINK IN.
Conflict. Two people (who could be very similar or very different) will have different experiences, different view points, and different baggage that they will bring into a marriage. This friction will create conflict. Period. You can’t avoid it. #sorrynotsorry
Combat. What do you picture?
I can tell you what comes to my mind. Maybe it is because I am the daughter of an army vet, or because I’m married to a first responder, but I picture two separate groups, completely decked out in Expendables-esque gear (think helmets, ammo, rocket launchers).
They are running out of the trenches, out from behind buildings, screaming, guns blazing. Some of them just shooting at anything that moves. Some of them hiding far away under branches and moss taking very careful and precise aim at their targets, killing them instantly.
I don’t know about you, but that can describe a few of the arguments I have had with my spouse. Yikes!
But I don’t want that to be a reflection of my marriage. So, how do I change that?
The most important thing that we can do is change our mindset. We need to think about conflict as a tool we can use in our marriage to grow closer together. We need to understand the difference between healthy conflict and destructive combat.
Easier said than done, am I right?
So here is what I want you to do. I want you to think back to the most recent fight you had with your spouse. It could have been last week or 5 minutes before you clicked on this blog. Don’t worry about the topic of the fight, just think about how the fight unfolded.
Can you reflect on and find the exact moment when your argument went from conflict to combat? Was it when the insults started flying? Or when one began ignoring the other person? Maybe it even started before the argument began, with little sarcastic comments and contemptuous body language?
Start by recognizing the pattern from beginning to end, and finding where you can adjust your sails to avoid hitting the unseen rocks below.
This will take quite a few tries, especially on your own. But it is possible.
However, sometimes it may be too difficult to do on your own. It could be because there is too much hurt piling on top, or because you are both so exhausted from the conflict turning into combat.
When that happens, it does NOT mean you need to throw in the towel on your marriage.
In fact, this is when marriage counseling can help the most. Find a counselor who can help you and your spouse understand each other better, so you can fight better together.
Counselors are trained and can provide the objective perspective needed to help your marriage heal from past combat, and create patterns that are helpful in your conflict styles.
*This does NOT apply to people in domestic violence relationships. If you or your spouse are being put in physical/emotional danger, you need to seek crisis support services, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
YOU CAN DO THIS.
It requires a little bit of patience, and a whole lot of intentional work, but it is possible.
Your marriage can heal and grow. My prayer is that you can see the opportunities and allow your marriage to become everything you hoped it would.
Take care, friends!
Alisha Sweyd, LMFT