We talked about confronting our spouses with a balance of kindness and love, and doing so in a timely manner. Another important thing to remember when addressing problems with your spouse is the power of affirmation.
Karen and I have found it very helpful to start any confrontation with words of praise. Here’s an example:
“Honey, I really love you, and I am glad we’re married. I’m more committed today to our relationship than ever before. I see so many good and positive things in your life. However, we need to talk about one issue…”
This approach to confrontation makes what you have to say much more acceptable and less threatening to your spouse.
The opposite of this approach can be deadly. It starts a confrontation with insults and threats. It puts your spouse in a defensive posture, which makes him or her much less receptive to what you have to say.
Something else to remember during confrontations is to not make assumptions about what your spouse may be feeling or thinking. We know our spouses well, but it’s important to remember that we really only know what shows on the outside—what they say or do—and not what’s happening internally.
For example, what if one spouse says something like this? “Yesterday when you were leaving the house, I said ‘goodbye’ and you walked out the door without saying a word. How dare you try to pay me back for what happened last night!”
That’s destructive. Anytime I’ve tried to interpret something Karen meant or felt, I’ve almost always been wrong. Don’t impose your opinions or insecurities onto your spouse. They are not you.
Just because your spouse did something that caused anger in you doesn’t mean the spouse caused the anger. Anger can be caused by a simple misunderstanding. Or sometimes our emotions erupt because of our own lack of maturity.
In these instances, blaming your spouse is unfair and unhelpful.
Here’s a better way to confront a spouse using the scenario above: “Honey, when you left the house this morning, I said ‘goodbye’ but didn’t hear you respond. Is everything OK? I felt a little hurt by it, so I wondered if there was something we need to discuss…”
This approach doesn’t accuse, blame, or make assumptions. Instead, it states what you are feeling and opens the door to talk things out.
Confrontation is a big problem in most marriages because most people just don’t like it. It makes us uncomfortable. That’s why we’ll do almost anything to keep peace.
But here’s the truth: You cannot have lasting peace without confrontation. A pile of gunpowder will eventually ignite with the smallest spark. If you keep sweeping hurts and resentments under the rug, it will eventually build up until it explodes.
For a peaceful relationship, you must commit yourself to dealing with problems in a loving, truthful, and timely manner.