Extended Conflict: 5 Tips for Overcoming a Stalemate

Inevitably, you and your spouse will run into issues you can’t agree on that will lead to friction in your relationship. Instead of letting conflict simmer, unresolved–where it will eventually burn up your relationship–allow it to shed light.

It’s frustrating and painful to get locked in a stalemate with your spouse…the one person you really don’t want to disagree with. Here are 5 tips for overcoming an unresolved conflict in your marriage.

  1. Don’t Avoid Conflict

In the short run, it’s very easy to avoid conflict. But long-term, it can be damaging–so you can’t ignore issues, especially if you’ve reached a stalemate with your spouse.

Ignoring conflict–instead of addressing your disagreement head-on–will create additional undercurrent issues in your marriage that might not have existed otherwise. Additionally, buried feelings have a high rate of resurrection…and unfortunately, when they arise again, they’re uglier than when we first felt them. You could unintentionally create a minefield for you and your spouse.

Get your conflict issues out in the open, and put them on the table. This exchange with your spouse doesn’t have to be loud, loaded or emotional; focus on having a relaxed and fully present conversation where you reveal that you have conflicting feelings over certain issues.

  1. Rate the Depth of Your Disagreement

When you and your spouse can’t see eye to eye on a certain issue, try using a rating system to rate how deeply you feel about whatever you’re disagreeing on. You can rate items from 1-10 (least to most important) to give yourself an objective view of how invested each of you are in certain outcomes.

Rating your issues will help keep you from checking out on each other when the going gets tough. Download our free Conflict Card for an easy way to rate the depth of your disagreement and the importance of the issues you’re dealing with together.

  1. Steer Clear of Criticism

When hashing out a particular problem or disagreement, steer clear of making critical comments toward your spouse. Criticism can take an argument in a very damaging direction.

We’ve all felt it: someone throws a critical comment in our direction, and we immediately become defensive. Emotions are heightened all the more between spouses, and it can be too easy to hurt the person we’re supposed to love the most.

Instead of being critical, turn your critical comments into complaints. That may sound counterproductive, but it will actually help you keep the emphasis off your spouse, and put it back on you and your feelings.

How you begin your statement makes all the difference. Focus on starting with an “I” statement. Instead of saying, “You never pick up your dirty laundry. You’re such a slob!” you could try, “When you don’t pick up the laundry, I feel frustrated. How can we resolve this?”

Another useful tool to keep criticism at bay is the XYZ Formula. To use it, just follow this simple construct and make it applicable to your situation: “In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z.” It’s a great way to avoid criticizing your spouse and having to deal with hurt feelings in addition to the conflict or disagreement you’re already working to resolve.

  1. Practice Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes–and it’s SO crucial in marriage. Practicing empathy allows you to see the world from your spouse’s perspective, and imagine living life in their skin.

Feeling things from inside out will have a great impact on you, and in turn, your relationship with your spouse. We’re all hard-wired differently; there’s not one right or wrong way to do most things. We are who we are, and it can be difficult to accept this without being empathetic to one another.

Being empathetic is risky behavior because it will change you. Once you’ve learned to practice empathy, you won’t be the same person you were. You’ll be more accepting of others…and in the case of this stalemate with your spouse, empathy could give you a deeper insight into your spouse’s stance, and why they’ve taken it.

  1. Work Toward Closure

When you find yourselves on the other side of an extended, unresolved conflict (or sometimes, when you’re right in the middle of it), you may find that you have many unresolved emotions to deal with. Burying these emotions will begin a new cycle of conflict, so it’s important to handle these feelings head-on rather than suppressing them.

Make a list of things you consider unfinished or unresolved, and work to get closure with your spouse. Do the necessary work to get internal closure for yourself, as well. Journaling is a great way to process your feelings until they’re out.

Conflict Isn’t the End

It’s important to learn that conflict isn’t the end of your relationship. Once you move past the fear of conflict, you can begin to build confidence in your ability to face and overcome issues together.

Have you and your spouse ever stared down a stalemate? How did you overcome it? We’d love to hear from you.

Les and Leslie Parrot