3 Ways to Deal with a Recurring Conflict

Groundhog Day
AlicePopkorn

Ever had an issue like one of my hubby’s favorite movies, Groundhog Day? If you’re not familiar, Bill Murray plays a weather reporter who keeps waking up to the same frustrating Groundhog Day over and over again.

Sometimes a particular issue in marriage is like that. No matter how hard you try to work through it and discuss it calmly with your spouse, it always reemerges and never seems to get resolved. If this conflict occurs too often or becomes too heated, it can hurt the relationship.

There are three important steps to help you exit this Groundhog Day dilemma:

Step One – Journal and pray about the conflict on your own.

I have provided some helpful questions to ask yourself regarding the problematic issue here. Remember, in your journal writings you can direct them to God and ask for His input as well, and I’m certain He’ll give you additional insight into your problem that may be just what’s needed to resolve the impasse.

Step Two – Use the “Boundary Conversation Guidelines” I’m providing. 

The “BCG” is a very structured way of talking through a difficult issue. I’ve also provided under the “Resources” tab, the Reflective Listening Exercise, which is a helpful tool for improving your listening skills—something we ALL need in marriage and life. If you use the Boundary Conversation Guidelines, it may help you and your spouse to reach a better understanding and calmer resolution of a troublesome issue.

If not, then …

Step Three – Set a boundary with your spouse. 

Boundaries are not easy to communicate, so you’ll need to pray and ask for God’s peace before you set the boundary. Also choose the best time to communicate a boundary to your spouse—when you’re both calm, rested and in a good frame of mind. In other words, don’t try to set a boundary in the middle of a conflict that hasn’t been previously discussed during a calm time.

Here’s how it might sound, “I feel like we’re not getting anywhere and hurting each other when we try to talk through this issue on our own, so I’d like to ask that we see a counselor who can help us to discuss this constructively.”

If your spouse is resistant to going to see a counselor, then you’ll have to set the boundary ahead of time like this, “Whenever our conversation about this issue gets too heated, I’m going to tell you that I need to step away and take a time out. If you continue to try and talk to me, following me, then I’ll leave where we are and go somewhere without you.”

You might also want to add, “Please know that I want to resolve this too, so I’m willing to try to discuss it further at a later and calmer time.”

If you’re still not able to resolve the issue, seek the help of a counselor or mentor on your own to gain support and to be able to process through the issue further. If this is an ongoing issue for you, please let me know and I’ll make a point to pray for you and your spouse regarding this “Groundhog Day” dilemma.

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Linking up with NOBH, Imperfect Prose, Women Living Well and New Life Steward

  • vsharp

    Great advice. Boundaries seem to be key in every relationship in life. Learning how to set them is necessary and often times quite hard to do. There is wisdom in your writing.

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    i agree with these great points. many of these styles are brought up in my MA classes for marriage and family therapy and can be some of the hardest to implement. but they are so. so important. talking ahead of time what you will need when you are disagreeing: for instance, my husband needs space and time. i like to be direct and handle conflict as soon as possible. we need to be aware of eachother’s style of communicating, even in conflict to help avoid triggers that will cause road blocks for the conversation.

  • Heather @Cube2Farm

    I don’t have a recurring conflict like this with my spouse, but my MIL. These are GREAT tips and advice. Thank you!
    (Found you through the WWLW link-up.)

  • Kimberly Green

    Thanks for the reminder that we need to be INTENTIONAL about planning productive ways to resolve conflict. I think to myself that I will bring this up later at a calm time, but chicken out and don’t follow through. These conflicts often are about parenting issues I have a hard time remaining clam when I don’t agree because I go into protection mode.

  • Take responsibility, have the intention to stop the conflict, and set boundaries. When you decide you won’t argue, this is a good thing. I always remind myself, my spouse is not my enemy. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Boundaries are one of the hardest aspects of marriage to navigate. I just hope I’m providing some handles for couples to grab a hold of. I appreciate your kind words and am so glad you stopped by.

  • messymarriage

    Yes, having differences in how we were raised or personality differences can make setting boundaries especially challenging. You bring up some important differences that we all need to bear in mind, Tara. Thanks for your insights and encouragement. Good to know we share the same passion, friend!

  • messymarriage

    Good point, Heather. I always tell single people that Messy Marriage has principles and stories that we all can relate to and benefit from. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, we have difficulty with parenting and money, Kimberly. We seem to go ’round and ’round when those two topics come up. And one of the reasons I like these strategies is that they lower my anxiety over having “the talk.” Thanks so much, sweet friend, for stopping by.

  • messymarriage

    Yes, I didn’t include this, but Gary and I have a “Conflict Card” that reminds us of that truth and a few other positive things. I’ll have to share about that at another post. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, friend!

  • Kimberly Green

    *remaining CALM. (and Clam also)

  • Beth, These are wise and practical steps you’ve outlined for us. I love how you’ve conveyed the fact that conflict in our marriages doesn’t have to be scary. It can be approached in a level-headed way, and have a constructive, blessed outcome!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, whenever I try to remain calm, I end up “clammy” too. 😉

  • messymarriage

    Yes, it really has made a difference for me and my marriage, since conflict makes me feel very anxious. I guess, I’ve seen it modeled in an unhealthy way in my parents marriage, so it’s my default response when conflict arises. I’m so glad to have positive tools to use now. Thanks so much, Ann, for your continued encouragement.

    Hey, are you at the AACC conference this week? (At least, I think it’s this week) We will have to get together for a cup of coffee when we both attend another one. 🙂