When my husband Ted and I tied the knot, I hated conflict. As in, a lot. I viewed it as an enemy. A villain of sorts. One that, if forced to face, would sabotage my personal comfort. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you're not too fond of it either.
The truth is that conflict is uncomfortable. Resolving it well demands that we die to ourselves and our personal agendas. Sometimes a little. Other times a lot.
But what I've learned over the last eleven years of marriage is that conflict isn't an enemy. Rather, when approached well, conflict can be an adventure.
Compare it to whitewater rafting. It takes teamwork to navigate safely through the turbulent waters. Once the raft is back on dry land, its passengers are stronger for having conquered the rapids ... together.
The same is true in marriage. When Ted and I navigate conflict together with the goal of coming out stronger as team, it becomes an adventure. A feat we can face — and conquer — side-by-side, not back-to-back.
If you're struggling with how to resolve conflict in your marriage, here are three communication tools that have proven helpful to Ted and me.
1. The Communication Sandwich
In my book Team Us, I share one of my favorite communication techniques. It's called the communication sandwich. It means that when you have criticism to share with your spouse, you sandwich it between praise. Much like you'd place ham and Havarti between two slices of Wonder Bread. Say, for example, your spouse, like mine, sometimes loves sleep too much. You might offer something like this:
Praise I appreciate how hard you work. I realize that sleeping in helps you relax. I know that's important ...
Criticism The thing is, I've been feeling like it’s getting in the way of our time together. Do you think we could reexamine your sleep schedule?...
Praise I'm really looking forward to figuring out a good balance. I can't wait to spend more time with you.
It's much easier to get your spouse to be receptive if you "sandwich" your concerns between praise.
[Read the rest of the article at For the Family.]