5 Benefits of Understanding Each Other’s Conflict Style

This article first appeared on iMom.com. You can view the original post here.

Earlier this year, my husband and I were honored to be asked to be a sort of mentor couple for friends who were engaged. We’d meet twice a month, and they’d ask us whatever they wanted about marriage and family life. Most of the time, these sessions made me feel pretty good about our marriage. Then the couple asked us how we handled conflict in marriage. My husband’s immediate response was that “we don’t.”I was shocked, embarrassed, and confused. But as my husband explained his response, I realized he was right. We did in fact avoid conflict because we didn’t know how to fight well. But if you want to learn to fight, you need to learn each other’s conflict styles—the things you do during arguments and what they really mean. Here are 5 benefits of understanding each other’s style of conflict in marriage.

1. Problems will actually get resolved.

Earlier in my marriage, when my husband and I disagreed, I would shut down at the first show of anger and then avoid him for hours. He was used to parents who fought loudly; I was not. Because I was so quick to shut down, we very rarely argued, but we also never resolved our problems. I didn’t understand that raised voices were a normal part of my husband’s conflict style; he didn’t realize he was scaring me. Arguments don’t necessarily lead to resolutions, but if each spouse knows how the other fights, you’ll be able to identify the crux of the matter and find resolutions more effectively.

2. You’ll know what to expect.

Once you know how you and your husband differ, you can create a conflict management method that works for both of you. For instance, I need to process things alone before discussing them with my husband, so I like to go for a walk when conflicts arise. Before I told him this, my husband didn’t know what I was doing. He thought I was running away, and it hadn’t occurred to me that my husband didn’t know I needed to collect my thoughts by myself. Now, in an argument, my husband knows I will go for a walk to process my thoughts, and then we’re both prepared to approach the issue together when I get back.

3. You’ll feel respected.

Knowing your differences in approaching conflict can help you both to fight fair and respect each other. When I left the house during a fight, my husband took it as a sign of disrespect. He thought I didn’t care. I didn’t mean to hurt him with my actions, but it happened anyway because he didn’t understand the reason for my actions. Similarly, many women cry when they’re upset, and husbands might wrongly assume that their wives are trying to manipulate them. If both spouses know how the other approaches conflict, you can fight fairly and know that no one is intentionally trying to hurt or disrespect you.

4. Fights will be shorter.

Tensions will dissolve more quickly if you’re familiar with each other’s conflict styles. If you’ve established a method for accommodating different ways of fighting, you’ll be able to skip unnecessary frustrations and move right to addressing the problem. Usually, if I left the house during a fight, my husband would not be waiting for me when I returned. Because of that fact, sometimes it took us days to fix things. Now that he knows how I handle conflict, I know he’ll be waiting for me so we can resolve the situation immediately. Couples who understand each other’s conflict style can create the best environment for healthy confrontation, allowing them to move beyond certain hang-ups and get straight to the point.

5. You’ll grow closer as a couple.

Knowing each other’s conflict styles will encourage you and your husband to grow closer together. I once heard a married woman say that conflict is meant to unite couples. I couldn’t help but think to myself, No, conflict pulls couples apart. But she was right. Couples argue because spouses want the other to share their opinion. They want to see eye to eye. If you understand each other’s conflict styles, you can create unity more easily. Sharing an intimate part of yourself with your husband requires vulnerability, and the more fully couples understand each other, the more united they’ll become.

How the Rule of 1 Can Refresh Your Marriage

When my husband and I were preparing for marriage, the priest assisting us suggested that we commit to one date night out a month. He admitted that it could be hard and a bit expensive because of babysitters, but he was adamant that it would be worth it. And he was right. We needed those nights out of the house.

But they weren’t enough on their own. Over the past seven years, we have gradually created the “Rule of One.” This rule recognizes that couples need to reconnect regularly if they want their marriage to be healthy and happy. Monthly dates alone aren’t going to cut it—a lot can happen in a month, and you just can’t leave it all to be hashed out during your date night. Take a look at the three parts of the Rule of One to see how they will help you refresh your marriage.

5 Good Attitudes to Bring to Your Marriage

Several years ago, I was having dinner with a friend who recounted the tale of a wedding ceremony he had attended. The couple had written their own vows, which included the line “for as long as our love shall last.” My friend was shocked—sure, about 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, but most marriages don’t begin with that end in mind. And yet here we are.

If we want healthy and happy marriages, we can’t approach the altar with such a negative attitude. We need to hold onto and cultivate good mindsets that will allow our marriages to flourish. Here are 5 good attitudes in marriage that will lead to growth, appreciation, and long-lasting love.

Dear Pre-Cana Coordinators: Please Stop Sugar-Coating the NFP Talk

The NFP portion of my husband and my Pre-Cana retreat was a bit of a circus. It began with a couple explaining how they came by their six children- two failed attempts at NFP that led to two sets of twins, followed by two separate surprises when the couple assumed children were no longer a possibility. The second couple to mention NFP had eight children, all about two years apart. The day concluded with a very scattered nurse who promised that NFP would make our marriages borderline magical. Let’s just say that by the time she mentioned the fact that couples using NFP are less likely to divorce, one young man leaned over to his fiancé and whispered, “We can take our chances with divorce.” Obviously, no one was able to take the nurse seriously.

The leaders of our Pre-Cana retreat made a lot of promises during that weekend. They promised that we’d be happier because we used NFP, that we’d communicate more, that we’d be less likely to get divorced. They promised that it would be easy, that it wouldn’t require significantly less sex, that it would be nearly perfectly effective. NFP sounded like a dream come true, the recipe for a picture-perfect marriage. But my experience with NFP was nothing like they’d promised. I felt betrayed and completely disillusioned.

NFP means saying “no” several times a month, even when you really wanted to say “yes.” Oh, it’s your birthday, your anniversary? Well, unless you want to chance becoming pregnant this month, it’s a no-go for tonight. Practicing NFP can be challenging at times. It demands that we be virtuous, and sometimes virtue is just plain hard.

NFP only involves communication if you want it to. NFP talk can completely revolve around whether or not you can have sex at any given time, if you let it. I once saw a NFP speaker tell a classroom full of Pre-Cana participants that her husband wakes up every morning when she takes her temperature so that he can write it in the little notebook he keeps on his bedside table. I think she expected everyone to sigh because of the cuteness, but all I could think was, Why would you make your husband wake up when he doesn’t have to? But maybe he wants to do it. Maybe my husband just needs to grow in virtue, and I need to give him the opportunity to engage in a daily act of self-sacrificial love. But probably not.

You’re not less likely to get divorced because you practice NFP. That’s a correlation, not a causation. It’s not like NFP is some magical remedy for marital dissatisfaction. It’s more likely the case that the type of couple likely to use NFP (and stick with it) is also the type of couple that’s less likely to divorce. And that probably derives from the fact that many couples who don’t believe in using contraception also don’t believe in getting a divorce.

NFP is not easy. Yes, it requires virtue, but it also can require some trial and error. My husband and I tried a few forms of NFP before finding a method that worked for us. It’s wonderful that there are so many different types of NFP out there, but that also means it might take a while before you find the type that works best for you and your family.

NFP often does mean less sex, especially if you’re really adamant that you not become pregnant. Many of the cheaper forms of NFP require several days (around a week for many women) where abstinence will be required if you’re trying to prevent pregnancy. The window of possible fertility can be quite long depending on what form of NFP you choose, which might be tough for some couples to accept.

Some forms of NFP are very effective, and some methods are less so, but most of them need some room for user error. NFP relies on human virtue, and some of us struggle with chastity. NFP can only be really effective at preventing pregnancy if couples have the virtue necessary to say “no” when they need to. Many methods can also malfunction. Thermometers might break. Predictions of fertility might be off by a day or two. Most methods of NFP are very effective, but they have to be used correctly.

I think there’s a feeling among Pre-Cana coordinators that if we’re up front and honest about NFP, no one will give it a try. But if we’re not up front and honest, most couples won’t stick with it. They’ll feel disillusioned and betrayed like I did, and they might not have the moral conviction that my husband and I had to stick with it even when it is difficult. And I don’t think we give couples enough credit. They can handle the truth. And they can detect a lie. So don’t tell them NFP will always be easy. Tell them why it’s worth it even when it’s hard. Don’t tell them that it’ll improve communication. Tell them that communication and prayer are always necessary for a healthy marriage. Don’t tell them that NFP will be 99% effective. Tell them that it’s effective when it’s used correctly, but NFP will require virtue and chastity.

We need to be honest because we’re not doing couples any favors by sugar-coating the reality of NFP. If we want couples to stick with NFP, we need to give them a reason why it’s worth it. We can’t make false promises. We can’t romanticize what many couples find very difficult. We need to help couples see the beauty in God’s plan. We need to help them recognize the great good that is the gift of children. We have to change their hearts with the truth because we’re not going to change their minds with our sugar-coated lies.