Retaliation or Reconciliation?

It is almost a given in any marriage: Sometime in the next few days each of us will be offended, irritated, or hurt by something our partner says or does.

It’s not always easy to think in rational terms when our blood pressure is rising over a perceived slight, but the truth is that conflict is the passageway to intimacy and health in our relationships. Without it there is no growth or refining. But to win the relationship rewards we must make the right decision in the face of adversity.

At that moment when you feel hurt or offended you will be faced with a decision: Should you Retaliate; or should you seek Resolution and Reconciliation? Your response to this choice will have an enormous bearing on your future happiness and the long-term success of your relationships.

If you are willing to seek a win/win and a healthy, harmonious relationship, here are some necessities as you work through conflict:

  • Find a space of humility that brings with it a desire for reconciliation above “winning” or proving yourself “right.”
  • Take the initiative and be the peacemaker. Don’t let pride stand in the way of resolution.
  • Sympathize with your partner’s feelings and seek to understand their perspective. You need not agree with their point of view, but it is important to understand and acknowledge it.
  • Without trying to justify yourself, take accountability for your part in the problem. The truth is that there are very few relationship issues that are unilateral; the roots of problems tend to be tangled together. Taking your share of accountability will help defuse the resentment of others.
  • “Attack” the problem, not the person. Be honest, but choose your words and tone of voice carefully. Nothing has ever been solved through harsh judgment or name-calling.
  • Emphasize Reconciliation, not resolution. Never place the desire for a solution above the paramount goal of building and strengthening the relationship. Solutions will always be found in a healthy and loving relationship, but rarely in one marred by turf wars and a need to be right.

You will discover that as the relationship is reconciled, many issues will lose their negative energy and will simply disappear or become more easily managed. So don’t hesitate to temporarily compromise on a particular problem, knowing that an even better solution will grow from the fertile soil of a loving relationship.