Conflict is Inevitable:
Conflict will arise in marriage. Do not rush through the conflict, just to avoid it!
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19.
These are wise words, but hard to follow when you’re in an argument with your spouse. Emotions run high when spouses fight. We want the conflict to cease, to move on, and feel secure. But rushing arguments have never helped anyone.
Taking a Time Out:
Joshua and I discovered a very helpful technique for dealing with high-emotion arguments when we were dating. We have managed to evolve it through the phases of our relationship. Thus we were not too surprised when we heard the “20 minute break” is a technique counselors recommend when experiencing physiological flooding or difficulty when arguing with your partner. The technique involves being aware of your own emotions, paying attention to your partner’s body language, and being responsible enough to say, “we need to calm down,” then taking a 20 minute break from the conflict.
Our version is slightly different. Instead of separating from each other, we find a calm and fulfilling way to remain in each other’s presence, while still refraining from continuing the argument. Before we had kiddos, we would usually go out to dinner or take a drive to get dessert. We would agree, verbally, to take a break from the argument and go do something fun and relaxing together. We would generally continue the conversation once we had started eating (food helps everything!) and we would be mentally refreshed and emotionally relaxed.
Evolving the Time Out through Different Circumstances:
As our marriage grew and children entered the picture, we are not able to easily go out and do whatever we want. That being said, our children are not a hindrance to this relaxation technique. Spending time loving our baby together and taking care of him allows us to connect emotionally even if there is a conflict between us. If Peter is already asleep, we take time to make a fun dessert or play a game together until we’re ready to continue.
Taking your time during arguments has no down sides. Propelling through and trying to “finish” is not a way to ensure stability in your marriage. It’s hard to deal with conflict, and often the same ones will come up again and again. Marriages carry hard times and many difficulties. Our goal cannot be to push through. The goal has to be to handle conflicts healthily and respectfully.
Take your time. You and your spouse deserve it.