There are various incorrect ways of resolving conflict. You are likely to identify with at least some of the following methods.
a. The Eskimo
Eskimos live in Alaska and other
Arctic countries, in the freezing snow and ice.
Similarly, the ‘Eskimo’ partner resolves his or her
personal conflict by means of physical and emotional
coldness. The reaction to a problem is to
not speak about it with your partner. Some people
have told me, “Pastor, I haven’t spoken to my wife for two weeks,” to
which I usually respond, “What are you hoping to achieve by doing that?
A prize? An Oscar, or a Grammy?”
Eskimo partners think that if they do not speak to their partners they
are ‘punishing’ him or her. Furthermore, they believe that if they do not
talk about what has happened, things will correct themselves. Both strategies
are incorrect. Their favourite sayings are: “Don’t touch me” and “I
have nothing to say to you.” They draw an imaginary line down the middle
of the bed and say, “This is my side of the bed and that is your side.
You don’t come over to my side and I won’t come over to yours.”
Because the Eskimo partner finds it difficult to express what he or
she is feeling, the biggest challenge for the person married to an Eskimo
partner is that they have to imagine or guess what could be going
through the other person’s mind. Nobody can read minds. Their efforts
to resolve the as yet undefined problem will be fruitless. This is an incorrect
way of resolving conflict. Your partner cannot know how you are
feeling if you do not tell him or her.
There is nothing more frustrating in a marriage than knowing that
something is wrong without being told what it is. If you tend to be an
Eskimo partner, I want to encourage you to speak up! Perhaps it will be
difficult at first, but in time you will see how communication in the home
will be restored.
b. The ostrich
This partner is similar to the Eskimo partner since he also
does not voice the problem, but his reactions are more extreme. When
the ostrich partner experiences conflict, he hides behind something or
someone so as to avoid the problem. He sticks his head into a
hole to escape. Sometimes this ‘hole’ is alcohol or drugs,
but it is not limited to these. At times the ‘hole’ is represented
by over-working, too much time spent on
outings with friends, or excessive attention to church
Trying to ignore problems is not a good way of
resolving them. No matter how much you may stick
your head into a hole like the ostrich does,
the situation that burdens you will not
improve. A neglected problem is not a
resolved problem. In fact, a neglected
problem is most likely a growing
problem. Pretending that problems
do not exist does not make them disappear;
on the contrary, in most cases
it makes them multiply.
This is best illustrated by a story I heard
a long time ago. Andrew had many
problems at home. His mother-in-law
hounded him, his wife constantly ordered
him around, his children did
not respect him and even his dog ignored him. He decided to go to the
bar to forget about his hardships. When he arrived at his ‘escape hole’ he
found Peter, an old childhood friend, at the door.
Curiously, Peter asked him, “What brings you here, my friend?”
“I’ve come to drown my sorrows,” answered Andrew.
And that is what he tried to do. For the next four hours, Andrew drank
everything he could get his hands on: beer, whisky, vodka, tequila. Eventually
he was raging drunk and ready to go home. Reclining in the doorway
to the bar was Peter, who asked him, “So, did you manage to drown
Scarcely able to talk due to his drunkenness, Andrew replied, “If only
you knew, Peter—my problems have learned to swim!”
The same thing happens with us. We cannot solve our problems by
ignoring them, and even less so by running away from them. We have
to face them with much prayer and effort, and help will come from God.
c. The gunslinger
This method of resolving
conflict is the opposite of the
Eskimo or the ostrich. Whereas those
two hardly talk, the gunslinger overdoes it. To the
gunslinger, every problem is seen as a military battle.
All conflict is attacked with projectiles in the form of words.
The gunslinger (whether male or female) uses words aimed
to hurt their partner. Every discussion is more heated than the
previous one, and every challenging situation is a crisis during which
they cannot speak without slinging insults. Phrases such as “I regret
marrying you!” and “I wish I had never met you!” are common. The gunslinging
partner speaks first and thinks later.
Words have astounding power, whether for good or for bad. They can
make one feel as if one is in heaven itself, or experience the suffocating
heat of hell. After being verbally attacked like this, some have said to me,
“I would have preferred it if my spouse had struck me, rather than hurt
me with those words.”
Some of the more common expressions used by the gunslinger include:
“If you don’t like it, there’s the door!”; “If you don’t like me the
way I am, I’ll leave,” and “Why don’t you just go and leave me in peace?”
Sounds pathetic, doesn’t it? I prefer to do things differently, following
this truism: “I shall speak sweet words, in case I am required to eat them.”
God has given us two ears and only one tongue; perhaps because he
wants us to do twice as much listening than talking. Use your words to
construct, to encourage, to boost your partner’s self-esteem! Remember:
“Nobody has ever regretted not saying something wrong.”
d. The boxer
This partner resorts to physical violence to deal with frustration.
Generally, conflict results in aggression: blows, beatings, scratches,
shoving and similar actions. This is followed by regret and sadness for
what has happened, accompanied by promises that it will never happen
again. But those promises are like ropes of sand—they serve no purpose.
The next conflict will lead to the ‘boxing ring’ again, and the vicious cycle
of aggression, sadness, promises, and conflict will continue. Without
significant intervention, the aggressive partner will never mature to the
point where they learn to express their emotions in a constructive manner.
If you are suffering the aggression of your partner, break the circle
of violence today! Seek help and stop living in fear!
e. The archaeologist
. An archaeologist’s passion lies in excavating ancient
buried history and making sure that we never forget the past.
However, there are those who do this at home, too. They constantly
delve into the past, reopening old wounds. They waste no time in reminding
their partner of a past wrongdoing. “Do you remember?” is
their favourite phrase. If we are constantly recalling the past, it will
prevent us from resolving the problems we face in the present.
Let us leave the archaeologists to digging up the past. Your
marriage will never reach the ideal God has for you if you are unable to
forgive and forget. How do you do that? You can begin by remembering
Forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a decision. If you expect
to feel the desire to forgive, you will probably never feel it.
Set the following goal for yourself: never speak about the
past! It is not easy for those who are used to doing it, but it
Focus on the present. Resolve today’s problems today,
leave tomorrow’s for tomorrow, and what has happened in
the past must be forgotten. We cannot drive backwards.
With regards to conflict overall, I have learned to see things in the following
way: for every ten conflict situations that you expect to have, five will
never happen, two will not be as bad as you expected them to be, another
two will be manageable with some effort,