Today, I'm going to talk about four ways to address conflicts in marriage. There's a difference in conflict resolution between weeds and needs. Weeds are all the details in a conflict. Weeds are, "I said this. No, you didn't, you said that." Weeds are, "This is what happened. No, it isn't. This is what happened." Those are weeds and that's where couples stay almost all the time in conflict. They go back and forth on the nitty-gritty, the details of who said this and who said that. It's pointless. You're not going to win that type of argument because you're dealing with two people's subjective experiences of reality. It's a losing battle. It's exhausting, it's overwhelming, and there's rarely a winner.
In contrast to weeds are needs that under-gird the weeds. Needs are causing the argument about the weeds. So, think about your core needs underneath the argument, underneath all the weeds. What's underneath it for you? Core needs are different for each of us. Some common core needs include wanting to feel heard, to feel cared for, to feel secure, to feel desired, to feel appreciated, to feel supported, etc. If a couple can identify and discuss their core needs in a conflict, instead of the weeds, they're much more likely to resolve it.
I'm going to go through four ways to get out of conflict weeds to focus more on your core needs underneath the weeds.
Conflicts in Marriage | 4 Steps
Next time you have an argument take a break and de-flood. As I mention in my article that covers the floor method for conflict resolution in marriage, step one in conflict is to de-flood. You're flooded when your heart rate is elevated and you're in fight or flight. You must learn to recognize when you’re flooded and call a timeout before the conversation turns destructive. Timeouts need to be at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours to properly de-flood. During your timeout do whatever's going to lower your heart rate, such as a jog, a nap, listening to music, etc.
2-Identify Your Core Need and the Root
During your de-flood time reflect on your core needs under the argument. It takes time to look within ourselves and learn about our core needs but it’s essential for successful conflict resolution. What’s your core need getting stirred up and what’s the root of that core need? Also, where from your past does the core need come from? Identifying where your core need comes from helps you understand yourself better and it will increase your partner’s motivation to honor it.
3-Discuss Both of Your Core Needs
Once both of you have thoroughly de-flooded and identified your core needs with the possible root, you’re ready to discuss. During the discussion take turns gently and respectfully expressing your core needs that got stirred up during the conflict and the root of your core needs.
4-Develop Win/Win Solutions to Honor Both of Your Core Needs
Now it’s time to start brain storming solutions to honor both of your core needs.
One example in my marriage is my wife and I had an argument a while ago about yard work. I was feeling like the burden of maintaining our yard was on me and the four kids and she wasn’t participating, which made me frustrated, which made her defensive in return. Once we took a break to de-flood, I was able to identify my core need of feeling like we’re a team in our marriage. I was also able to realize working as a team was a value I was raised with. Growing up, we were all expected to equally chip in and work together until the job was done. So, I had to identify that core need for me and where it came from. Once we resumed the conversation, I was able to calmly discuss my core need and its root without criticizing her and she was completely receptive in her response. We then negotiated a time to do yard work together as a family that would also work for her. Part of the problem is I was doing yard work during a time that wasn’t good for her and that was stirring up her core need to have a voice and feel listened to. So, we negotiated a time that worked for both of us and have been doing yard work as a family at that time ever since. The problem was solved because the core needs were identified and discussed, not the weeds.
Do the same thing this upcoming week. The next time you and your spouse have an argument, de-flood to lower your heart rate, identify your core need and its root, discuss with your partner, then brainstorm win/win ideas to honor both.
Be sure to check out Dr. Wyatt Fisher's other resources below to better your relationship!
How could it impact your conflicts in marriage to focus on your needs rather than the weeds?