No one marries anyone with the intention to pick a fight. When we opened up our hearts to marrying our husbands, we committed ourselves to caring for them for the rest of our lives. In those moments of delightful daydreams and fairytale wishes, we may have never imagined that we would fall into any serious disagreement with our husband – or at least not to the extent that it would make us question our original decision to marry him.
Consequently, when conflict occurs in our marriages, it not only tests our boundaries – it shakes our core. Since we never accepted the possibility of butting heads with our prince charming, when key arguments continue to resurface after many failed attempts to obliterate them, we begin to doubt if we should endure the pain in our relationship.
For many of us, our negativity only increases because at the root of the matter we ‘fear’ conflict. Somewhere deep down, we internally believe that conflict is a sign of a doomed relationship, and it scares us to see it happening so vividly in our lives. As such, when we ‘fight,’ we often find ourselves fighting over the reason that there is even a fight in the first place. We assert that there would be no problems if our husband would just let go of the issue. We claim that we are hardly the cause of the argument. We hold up our ceasefire banner, chanting ‘peace not war.’
When that fails to work, we pronounce a ‘security alert’ and survive the ambush by relying on blame, accusations, defensiveness, stalling, ignoring, shutting down, or giving in due to an inability to withstand the pressure caused by the tension. During the crossfire, these methods seem so right because they make us feel secure, whereas being emotionally available and facing the underlying causes of the conflict is too unsettling and risky.
However justified these defense mechanisms may seem, none of them are real conflict resolutions; rather, they are merely ways of running away from the heat instead of figuring out how to put water on the fire. Unfortunately, if resorting to these tactics becomes habitual, and the couple does not soon figure out how to deal with conflict in a manner that makes their relationship better, their marriage will probably never reach its full potential. In fact, relationship experts agree that the way a couple handles conflict is the most important predicator of whether they will divorce.
Everyone’s case is unique and wives seeking to stop ongoing conflict in their marriages should seek individual attention through private coaching. In this post, our goal is to share general advice that will hopefully halt the tension and disagreements from escalating and turning into full-blown fights inshaAllah.
Part Five: Five Moves That Stop Escalating Conflict
Move #1: Own Your Part
Sometimes our perspective towards conflict harms us more than the conflict itself. Conflict has such a bad rep in our society, so we naturally try to avoid it like the plague. However, every intimate relationship experiences conflict. In fact, if you want to be married to another human being, it’s virtually impossible to avoid conflict at all.
What separates successful couples from the rest is that they’ve figured out how to make conflict work in their benefit. They embrace conflict and use it as a tool to greater serve their marital bond and personal journey in becoming better Muslims. In short, they turn their disagreements into their allies and not their enemies.
If we want to save our marriages, we first need to rethink our perspective on conflict itself and realize that it’s not the end of the world if we differ or disagree with our husbands – but what matters is if the way in which we are dealing with our conflict is pleasing to Allah Most High. Thus, it’s your personal responsibility to own your part in the dance.
Because no one will be so acutely aware of your imperfections than your husband, look for the khayr underneath your husband’s grumble and avoid resisting his feedback. Try using the conflict as an opportunity to draw closer to Allah by seeing it as a way to confront your faults and improve yourself. When we stop taking our husband’s comments personally, we gift ourselves with a chance for personal growth and development, and once we see the positive in experiencing conflict, we are better equipped to take the bull by the horns.
A marriage entails that one is open to discovery and learning – and more about oneself than one’s spouse. Start questioning your own actions. Watch yourself from a bird’s eye view and ask yourself what’s motivating you to say and act the way that you do. When you own your part and gain insight into it, you can then focus on finding the right tools to alter your moves inshaAllah.
Move #2: Pay Attention To Your Body
By becoming more familiar with how our body changes when we feel ‘attacked’ or upset, we can find more suitable coping mechanisms to calm us down and more awareness of when it is time to pull out, as well as explaining to our husband what happens to us during conflict and clueing him in on what we need in order to stay in a better state.
Take note of the following:
- Where do you feel the uneasiness and tension? Is it in your stomach, your head, or your legs?
- Where do you feel the rage? Is your heart beating rapidly? Does your chest feel on fire? Does your face become red?
- Where do you feel the sadness? Are your eyes welling up with tears? Or are you holding back your tears and exerting intense effort to put on a brave face?
Moreover, pay attention to the state of your emotional well-being. Our thoughts drive our emotions, and the quality of our emotions influence our actions. Try to pinpoint which thoughts are related to your emotional and physical reactions. If you can zoom in on which thought is triggering these psychological and physiological changes, you can then work on getting rid of the thought, which may pave the way to ending your disagreements inshaAllah.
Move #3: Discover What Tactic You ‘Inherited’
The tactics that we resort to within conflict is rooted in how we saw our family members and loved ones deal with it – especially our parents. Take a moment and write down the typical ways that you respond when you and your husband get into conflict.
- Do you emotionally clam up or give him the silent treatment?
- Do you blame him or hold onto resentment?
- Do you give him a ‘piece of your mind’ or storm off?
Now, ask yourself who in your family does the same thing.
When we analyze our behaviors, we disempower them and minimize their haul over us. This in turn grants us with a greater ability to feel in control of ourselves. How many a person says, “Well, that’s just the way I am when I’m upset!” But when we stop making excuses for ourselves and recognize that our reactions are only learned behaviors, we will gain greater skill in changing them.
Try envisioning how you would ideally want to react within conflict. Play mental movies in your head over and over until it feels more natural; even if you make a mistake in real life, replay the scene in your head and imagine how you wished you would have responded. Basically, spend your time imagining how you could make it better from your part, instead of wasting your time envisioning what you wished you would have said as a comeback.
With patience and practice, it is possible to learn a new behavior – something that works in our benefit as adults and as wives inshaAllah.
Move #4: Tap Into the Deeper Issue
At a surface level, it may seem like the two people who are fighting over an issue just cannot get along, but it is often a lot deeper at heart. Once conflict escalates into a fight, the parties involved are usually no longer disagreeing about how to resolve the issue at hand, but the argument turns into a struggle of either trying to change the other person or proving how one is in the right.
A common reason that wives delve into constant fighting is because they resent their husband for something he did (or did not do), and the lingering resentment makes the conflict blow up every time they fall into a disagreement. When women avoid dealing with the deeper issue of why they resent their husband, their bitterness grows and grows, and everything about him becomes a problem.
Another reason that wives may fight is due to outside factors that have nothing to do with their marriage, like their lack of confidence in themselves. When you’re not confident in yourself and in love with what Allah has given you, you will take people’s complaints about you to another degree – viewing it like vicious criticism. This can often occur with women who come from unstable childhoods.
So, get to the root of the matter. Ask yourself: What are we really fighting about? What is really bothering me about it all?
Jot down your ideas and keep asking yourself these same two questions over a period of a week. Each time, the answer may be different, but sure enough, it will be deeper InshaAllah. This activity will help you get to the bottom of a lot of your hidden feelings and motives, which may create an avenue for peace talking with your husband.
Move #5: Show Respect To ‘Mr. Wrong’
On the other side of conflict is an intimate connection. Conflict opens the door to more honest communication and truth telling. We cannot have a good, solid lasting relationship without first learning how to deal with our marital conflict in a successful manner.
A successful way entails that we speak to our husbands with compassion, care, and respect. When we get heated, no matter how intense it gets, we agree to uphold these boundaries and avoid yelling, screaming, sarcasm, or any action that Allah Most High hates.
Some may find this part difficult because they’ve developed an unIslamic culture of how to deal with conflict in their marriage, but consider this: Do you and your husband fake it in front of other people of how good your marriage is? If you can pull it off in front of others, then that means that there is a possibility to act differently with each other when you’re alone.
No matter which way you look at it, our actions are a choice and our responsibility. Showing respect to your husband – even if you believe that he is in the wrong – must be a priority. An easy way to show respect is to practice listening. Listening is a sacred act in a marriage; if only we cared about listening as much as we care about talking!
True listening requires you to quiet your mind, open your heart, and ask questions to better understand what your husband is saying. Once you see your husband’s comments as feedback coming your way to help you, then you can more easily inquire about his perspective. The beauty is that once you accept his feedback, he’ll be more open to yours inshaAllah.
Make an internal goal to listen to him speak for five minutes without interrupting. Afterwards, make a concession by asking questions, like “You’re right. I shouldn’t have done that….but what bothers me is…why is that?” This needs to be said in a concerned tone and not to prove him wrong.
Or after you hear him out, you can inform him about how you feel, like “I know you don’t mean it, but I feel judged /or misunderstood.” This should be used as a tool to teach your husband about what’s going on in your world and not as a way to slight what he says.
If that’s too much, then state your limit, like “I hear you, but I need time to think about it. Can you give me a day to think it over?” Take that time to honestly reflect. Only approach him when you’re both in good states and you are clear about your side on the issue. Truthfully speaking, there is no need to try to resolve a given issue in one sitting; depending on how serious the topic, it may require more negotiating time.
If all of this is still too difficult for you because you are very defensive and argumentative, check out this leading therapist and relationship expert’s 12-Step Program To Lower Your Defensiveness inshaAllah.
In summary, some may be afraid of facing the conflict in their relationship because it involves compromise or learning about whom one truly is. If we want to be in an intimate relationship with our husband, we need to learn the best tools of how to deal with conflict when it arises, and not run from it or try to make it non-existent. Make the right moves – moves that will deescalate the fighting and escalate the values of love, friendship, and mercy in your marriage inshaAllah.
We’ve reached the end of our five part series on “Where’s My Happily Ever After?” We pray that these posts presented a more realistic vision of what a marriage is like, as well as offered various ideas of how to create a more authentic version of your happily ever after. Stay tuned for more love treats from TayyibaatWives in the coming weeks inshaAllah.
© TayyibaatWives, 2017.