Conflicts Dont Have to Mean a Fight to the Death

Although conflict in marriage is inevitable, fighting is optional.

The secret is in how you approach and handle the conflict. It can make the difference between a really great relationship and a breakup looking for a place to happen.

With that notion in mind, let's take a look at five styles of handling conflict, along with alternative solutions for each.

Ready-Fire-Aim: These folks are the shooters of conflict.

They live by the motto "cross me and you will pay." Instead of ready-aim-fire, they shoot first and ask questions later. This style causes lots of damage and usually serves to isolate the shooter.

An alternative solution, in the words of St. Francis and Stephen Covey, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." If you take the time to understand someone and that person's point of view, it's a whole lot easier to keep your shooter in its holster.

Crock potters: They let a conflict simmer for a while. Sometimes it can be as harmless as needing to mull things over before handling conflict. At their worst, crock potters simmer and seethe, building resentments, blowing up or both.

It can be healthy and productive to mull it over before you respond in a conflict. But instead of allowing it to boil over, agree on a time you will sit down together and calmly address the conflict.

Me right/you wrong: This style of conflict really is as primitive as Tarzan. People who hold tightly to the right to be right can go to just about any length to prove they are right, even to the point of ending the relationship.

The alternative solution is to punt. Give up the right to be right. Check out what you might be able to learn from the other point of view, which might even be as valid as your own. Shocking, I realize, but highly possible. The simple truth is that in marriage there are times when you can be right or be happy, but not both.

Tomb-ers: They elevate the infamous silent treatment to an art form. Conflict arises and they shut down. When you ask what's wrong, their reply is either "nothing" or "everything's fine," but you know better.

Usually tomb-ers have a strong fear of conflict, believing that any conflict will end the relationship. Quite the opposite is true -- not dealing with the conflict can kill the relationship from within. Here are some words to begin with: "Can I tell you what I'm uncomfortable with here?"

Historians: They remember every fault, mistake and blunder ever made by their partner, including what was said, what you wore and where you were standing at the time. And they're more than willing to remind you, in detail.

An alternative solution is to get a dry-erase board and write the current conflict on the blank board. Deal with it. Resolve it. Erase it. Over, done with, gone.

I'm guessing that you have identified your partner's style of conflict. Now, read back through the categories and ask yourself: Which one am I?

Jeff Herrring, MS, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist, relationship coach, speaker and nationally syndicated relationship columnist, and founder and CEO of http://www.Couples-Connection.com. You can email Jeff at jeff@couples-connection.com and sign up for his f'ree internet newsletter "Couples-Connection on his website at http://www.Couples-Connection.com

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