Some conflicts are solvable and temporary and others may be more chronic, but when possible, look for a solution that both parties can live with and feel good about. For those who are married, sometimes we misunderstand biblical headship and submission to mean that the husband always gets his way in every conflict or disagreement. God never describes headship in that way. In fact, Jesus sternly cautions those in authority over others not to misuse their positions for selfish purposes (Mark 10:42-43). Godly headship always leads to sacrificial servant-hood rather than demanding one’s own way.

The following steps make resolving conflict in a mutually agreeable way more likely. We’ve already talked about steps one through three in previous blogs, but they bear repeating and are part of the win/win strategy.

1.  Clearly define the problem:  To work together toward a mutually agreeable solution, whether it is a marital conflict or a disagreement among family members or friends, you must define the problem you’re working to solve. For example, Dana felt angry because Ted spent money without telling her, but why was that a problem? Was it because she didn’t think that was fair or was it because she didn’t like what he bought? Dana needed to think about why Ted’s spending was a problem for her. As she looked at the situation more closely, she saw that the problem was what happened to her budget when Ted overspent. As Dana defined her problem and communicated directly how she felt and what she wanted, she may have said, “Ted, I don’t like it when you spend money without telling me first. It throws our budget off and then I’m scrambling to find money to pay the bills. I’d like you to talk with me before you make a purchase over fifty dollars.”

2.  Respectfully ask for what you want/need to solve the problem:  Dana defined the problem and asked Ted directly for the changes she wanted him to make. She told him how she felt without assaulting his character with ugly words like, “You’re so irresponsible. How could you be so selfish?”

3.  Listen carefully:  As Dana listened, Ted told her he felt like a child being given an allowance. He worked hard and didn’t like Dana’s tight control over what he could or could not spend.

4.  Aim for a Win/Win:   When you purposefully look for a solution that is good for both people rather than trying to win the argument, you are much more likely to end up with a win/win solution. To accomplish this, Dana needed to show respect and consideration for Ted’s feelings and a willingness to work with him to find a mutually acceptable solution to her problem of not having sufficient money to pay bills as well as his problem of feeling like a child with a controlling mom. Ted also needed to be respectful of Dana’s desire to be a good steward of their finances and not be short of funds to pay the bills. They must negotiate and compromise to come up with solutions that meet both of their needs. Sometimes this feels like very hard work. It is, and this work is what builds better and closer relationships.

This is the kind of work that allows my husband and me to go on vacation even though our preferences are very different. We talk about how we will spend our time together, how much money we want to spend, and what’s important, being considerate of each other’s desires, so that at the end of the vacation we’ve both had a good time.

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