Going toe to toe with your spouse in an argument is never pleasant. The verbal jabs, strikes and devastating uppercuts are painful in their own right. Yet, as all of you who've been married for any amount of time know, there are residual effects as well that carry over once the conflict has ended. These include emotional distancing, hurt feelings, resentment, frustration, and anger. It's crucial that you and your partner understand how to repair your relationship so that you can move forward and once more experience a close emotional connection. Here are strategies that count when making a repair is needed.
1) Take a Break (Slow Things Down)
I often find that couples can be relentless, not only with their words, but in deciding to carry an argument over long periods of time. This is not only detrimental, it's risky at best, since it provides additional time for a disagreement to escalate. It's more beneficial to recognize when a conversation has deteriorated, and to provide space and time for you and your spouse to calm down. This step is important for different reasons:
- When we're upset, we go into fight or flight mode, which diminishes our capacity for listening and understanding what is important to our spouse.
- We need time to reflect upon our approach to the conversation, and decide how we can re-engage in a more peaceful manner.
If you are worried about the topic you're addressing being forgotten, reassure each other that you will return shortly to continue talking once you've had time to gather your thoughts, gain perspective and relax a bit.
2) Choose Humility Over Hubris
I cannot overstate the need for humility in making emotional repairs. It's the antithesis to hubris (pride or arrogance) and is far more helpful. This is because humility allows us to be realistic about our own contribution to marital breakdowns and avoid patterns of stubbornness or defensiveness when we come together to make amends. It also gives us the capacity to say two compelling words. . .
This simple phrase is more powerful than you may recognize. Why? Because it immediately conveys the following:
- You care about your spouse.
- You recognize that your actions have had an impact on them.
- You want there to be a softening of the tension between you.
From a biblical point of view, choosing humility over hubris enables us to judge our own motives before ever trying to figure out how our spouse needs to change.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5, NIV)."
If we're willing to get over our sense of pride and recognize our own imperfections, we'll discover that navigating through emotional repairs isn't nearly as difficult as it could be otherwise.
3) Affirm Your Spouse
As a husband or wife, your words carry great power. You can make or break how your spouse feels about themselves with only a couple of pointed statements. Chances are, you may have uttered one or more of those statements in a recent argument. Whether or not that happens to be the case, affirming your spouse is central in bridging emotional gaps since helps you refocus on the priceless value and place you hold in each other's heart. The reality is that both members greatly benefit when they take even small amounts of time to build each other up with their words. If you're unsure what that means, it looks like letting them know you love them, that you're on their side, and that you desire to join with them in working through the issue(s) causing the conflict in the first place.
Bringing It All Together
Making repairs attempts in a marriage is a process based affair. In other words, how you engage each other matters just as much, if not more, than what you say. If our hearts are humble, and we are willing to take needed breaks and affirm one another, making needed repairs in our marriage is entirely possible.
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Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling