For many couples, planning a wedding is a huge undertaking, and it’s likely the first major project you’ve worked on together. There is much excitement that can come through this process, as you learn about your soon-to-be spouse’s creativity, problem-solving skills and ability to compromise. Unfortunately, this can also be a time of frustration and conflict, but let’s face it: conflict is a reality of married life. If you use this time before your wedding to being working on your conflict resolution skills, you’ll enter into marriage feeling confident in your ability to take on life together.
Fight, Flight or Freeze
Before looking at steps to resolve conflict, let’s consider what poor conflict resolution looks like. Science class taught us that animals have a natural Fight, Flight or Freeze reaction, and the same is true for humans. When our fiancé or spouse says or does something that hurts us, we may choose to fight them in anger, walk away from a situation and never resolve the root issue, or freeze our emotions until we eventually stop caring altogether.
Loving couples who are seeking longevity in their marriage need to learn to focus on the issue, rather than the person. When we break a bone and allow it to properly heal, the bone grows back stronger than ever; the same is true of our marriages with proper conflict resolution. After you’ve experienced a difficult situation together, you’ll feel closer and more in love, and at the end of your life, you’ll be able to look back and appreciate the hard times that allowed you to grow as a couple.
Five Steps to Resolve Conflict
Step One - Know, Accept and Adjust to Differences
Opposites attract during the dating stage, but when you’re living with someone who is totally different from you, those cute quirks become annoyances. You may love that he’s more laid back and helps you relax, but after a while, that could look like laziness! You may think it’s awesome how driven and organized she is, but later that can feel controlling! Once you begin to notice the differences that drive you crazy, you’ll need to learn to accept them, rather than try to change them. Your differences will help your home feel balanced once you can accept and adjust to those quirks you fell in love with.
Step Two – Don’t Be Selfish
Sure, you’re great. You know it, your fiancé knows it. But if your fiancé was just like you, there’s some things that would just never get done. A big point of stress and conflict is when we expect our fiancé to act a certain way, because that is how we would act. For example, conflict could arise if one person feels like he or she is doing all the cleaning in the house. While both partners should be sharing in responsibilities, that conflict comes from a place of selfishness – “I do all these things for her, and she doesn’t help” is essentially saying that you deserve your partner’s help, just because you did your part. Having a selfless, serving attitude toward your soon-to-be spouse is the best way to resolve conflict, often before it starts. If you both spend your time serving each other, you’ll never have to worry about yourself.
Step Three – Fight for the Team
In a marriage, both people are equal partners, and you share in everything. You’re a team, so if you fight with your teammate, there’s no winner or loser – the team as a whole wins or loses together. If you go into conflict trying to win, you’ll do nothing but hurt your fiancé and your relationship. Instead, focus on removing the hurt and anger to resolve an issue and grow together. Think about how a situation makes you feel, rather than something your fiancé does or a part of her character.
Step Four – Right Time, Right Place, Right Attitude
Being able to effectively communicate with your spouse is fundamental, and you can start working on that today. When there is a moment of conflict, consider the situation before trying to resolve it. Having a serious conversation first thing in the morning or right after a stressful work day likely isn’t the right time. If something comes up at your parents' house and it can wait until the car ride home, you’d be considering the right place. And if you’ve been stewing on your hurt feelings and know you can’t say anything nice to your fiancé, you should wait until you have an attitude of love and respect.
Step Five – Be Willing to Forgive
As much as you both love each other, you’re human, so you will fail at times. Be willing to forgive the mistakes your fiancé makes, and be willing to ask for forgiveness. This isn’t just a matter of saying the words, but giving up the desire to punish or get revenge, and moving past the incident without bringing it up at the next point of conflict. Work toward being thankful for points of conflict because they allow you the opportunity to better learn about yourself and your spouse, to grow together, and to love each other through forgiveness.
Practical Strategies for Resolving Wedding Stress
Consider the Big Picture
It’s easy to start worrying about every little detail, but try taking a step back to think about the big picture - you get to marry the love of your life!
Remember Who’s Getting Married
Wedding stress can certainly elevate if outside people start trying to dictate. Remember, a family member or friend may want to help, but they don't get the final decision. Be a united team as you make decisions that best represent who you are as a couple.
Ask Who Cares More About an Issue
If one of you wants something and the other doesn’t, ask who it will make a bigger difference to. Maybe your fiancé is incredibly uncomfortable dancing and doesn’t want a first dance, but you love the tradition - find out who cares more about the issue, and make the final decision together.
Be Clear About Expectations
Set the guidelines and expectations early in the process so that feelings don’t get hurt. If it’s important to you that your fiancé has an opinion about every detail, you should explain that before you end up feeling like they don’t care.
Teach and Learn
Maybe your fiancé doesn’t understand one of your family traditions that you want to include in the wedding. Instead of assuming that they just get it, take the opportunity to teach each other.
Find the Root of Any Conflict
Always consider the reason behind the conflict. A fight probably isn’t about real vs fake flowers - it can instead be a budget concern that one partner is uncomfortable talking about. A conflict about the size of the bridal party may come from insecurities about not having close friends. Talk things through openly and consider that conflicts may not be about wedding details.
Don’t Forget to Date
Just because you’re planning your wedding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still date each other. Don’t get so caught up on the details that you forget why you’re marrying this person! Love each other, be kind, and romance each other.
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