There are many important elements to having a strong, happy and stable marriage.
Communication is one of the biggest–Grace and Empathy are Tools.
Grace and Empathy are two very important tools for better communication. These conflict resolution tools are tools for us to use that will build up our marriage and help us communicate better with our spouse.
Remember, in disagreements it should never be so much about who is “right” and who is “wrong”. Your fight is not against each other, but against the topic of the discussion.
Attacker and Defender
There are many names for the cycles we fall into when we have disagreements, but I think “Attacker” and “Defender” is pretty descriptive. We feel what they are saying to us is an “attack” on our person, so we immediately jump to “defend” ourselves.
We don’t really stop to listen to what they are saying, but are already forming our defense and comeback as soon as we get a chance to speak. Then we attack them with our defense, and the cycle continues to escalate.
Wrong reactions which we too often show are impatience, judging, manipulation, frustration, irritation, nagging, resentment, blame and anger leading to escalation. These reactions do not improve communication.
Tools that Help
Here is where you need to use the tools of Grace and Empathy to bring about the right reactions from both of you.
Grace – is to be regarded by someone with favor. It is undeserved kindness. It is free and unmerited. It always assumes the best, not the worst.
Empathy – seeks to understand the other person; to listen and reflect back what they are feeling. We want to be heard and understood, and to be validated.
Another tool that can show your spouse both Grace and Empathy is Validation.
Validation is active listening – you repeat back in your own words what you heard. Use the phrase “so what I’m hearing you say is ___”, or ask the question “so how does that make you feel?”
Misunderstanding is often the cause of conflict.
Don’t let wrong reactions continue until you experience feelings of anger and hurt and both parties feel misunderstood.
This is where showing empathy to each other is needed. Empathy is simply trying to understand the other’s position, without judging or giving your opinion.
Try to put yourself in their shoes and see their side of the situation. Try to understand your spouse’s past and how that has contributed to their emotional triggers.
You will find this will help you respond and react to them in a more loving way. It doesn’t mean you agree with their actions, but it can help you build compassion toward each other.
Grace and Empathy
Extend grace to your spouse. Many times, because of our own judgmental attitude, selfishness, and defensiveness, we assume the worst from the first word spoken, and often jump to wrong conclusions.
Try giving them the benefit of the doubt and not make assumptions about their motives. Sometimes it’s just believing that they didn’t mean it the way it came across, and wait for clarification.
We receive grace from God every day – can we not also extend grace to our marriage partner. This is the person that you chose to commit your life to, and pledged to love and cherish until death. Extending grace during a conflict is a selfless gift you can give to your spouse.
Grace believes the best. Empathy understands.