In the third installment of the Relationship Series, City Harvest Church senior pastor Kong Hee and his wife Sun Ho gave five steps to defuse an argument.
Can there be disagreements in a marriage? City Harvest Church senior pastor Kong Hee and his wife Sun Ho say that couples do not need to resolve all perpetual problems for marriages to thrive.
Over the weekend of April 16 and 17, Kong and Ho continued to expound on the subject of relationships, this time focusing on the area of conflicts. This is the third installment of the Relationship Builder series.
[See reports of the first two parts of the series here and here.]
“The goal in solving the solvable problems is to ensure that we don’t end up in a screaming match or angry silence,” Ho says. “Handle arguments with good manners and respect. Often, the more intimate we are, the more we take each other for granted. Sometimes we treat our friends better than our spouse.” She encouraged couples to treat their spouse no different from how they will treat a friend or acquaintance.
“If our spouse is our best friend, why should we take them for granted?” she added. John 13:34 says, “… as I have loved you, that you also love one another”. She also emphasized the need to show Christ-likeness in loving each other.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says “Love is patient, love is kind.” Kong reminded the congregation that in the heat of a quarrel, in Proverbs 13:3, “a quick retort can ruin everything.” He reminded the congregation that as Christians, it is important to always communicate in love, just as Colossians 4:6 says that “let your speech always be with grace.”
FIVE STEPS TO RESOLVING CONFLICTS
John Gottman, a marriage expert, says that in dealing with conflicts, there are four horsemen of apocalypse that can endanger a marriage and lead it to a divorce. They are criticism, contempt of the partner by being mean and disrespectful, defensiveness and lastly, stonewalling which it is the refusal to communicate or cooperate.
“When these four horsemen constantly show up in arguments, one or both spouses will feel overwhelmed and the emotional distance will widen between them,” says Kong. “Eventually, they will feel that there is no point in fighting and divorce becomes inevitable.”
With that, the Kongs gave the congregation five steps to solving conflicts:
1) Soften the start-ups.
“We can complain about the problem, just don’t attack the person,” Ho advises. Most discussions end on the same note they start with, so a harsh start-up will typically end harshly.
“Harsh start-ups are the gradual build-up of complaints or frustrations that have been repeatedly ignored.” As such, the Kongs said it is important to acknowledge the spouse’s feelings.
There are six keys to having soft start-ups. Firstly, spouses need to be gentle to each other. Kong said that in Matthew 11:29, “God’s gentleness is what makes us great.”
Secondly, Ho said that couples should not use sweeping statements such as “never” and “always”. “You are always so arrogant,” Ho cited an example which can fuel an argument when confronting the other partner.
Thirdly, complain but do not blame. Kong said that the priority is to focus on the problem and not the person.
Fourthly, Ho said that one must be appreciative of the partner by having a thankful heart.
On the fifth point, Kong advises couples to start a statement with “I” instead of “You”. For example, instead of saying “you are careless with money”, Kong suggested to rephrase it to “I want to save more money”. That would lead the discussion to end with a positive note.
Lastly, Kong said that couples should not bottle things up. Ephesians 4:26 says that “Be angry but do not sin”. If anger is not dealt with properly, it can open a foothold for Satan to take advantage of the situation.
2) Make Effective Repair Attempts
Kong said that when a person drives, it is important to know how to press a brake. Similarly, it is important to press the brake in an intense argument and using repair attempt is a good way to do it.
Words like “I need your support right now. Can we take a break?” or “Please help me to calm down” are some of the communication tips to the other spouse to stop a heated quarrel. Kong added that when one learns to see from the spouse’s point of view, it would be easier to agree to disagree. “Ok, you are starting to convince me,” or “I see what you are talking about” are statements to show validation to the spouse’s feelings is being done. As such, Kong added that by showing appreciation, emotional brakes are enforced to resolve solvable problems between spouses.
3) Keep Calm
When both parties are unable to keep calm, they are often unable to reason objectively to resolve conflicts.
It is important for both husband and wife to learn to compromise, Ho said. Kong added that a happy marriage is made up of a happy husband and a happy wife. For example, Kong learnt to compromise by mopping the floor after using the washroom at home as Ho liked to keep the toilet dry. “Compromise works only in a positive environment,” Kong said.
5) Become Tolerant Of Each Other’s Fault
“What if our partner is this or that?” some may ask. Ho noted that the spouse will need to accept the other’s flaws in order to reach a state of compromise. “The goal of solving a conflict is finding a common ground to live happily ever after,” Ho added. Kong reminded the congregation that if compromise seems to be a distant goal, the problems may be unsolvable.
In closing, Kong said that either spouse needs not be a door mat without any principles as love has options. “Love means we don’t need to be right all the time. Love reaches and seeks to reach out to the person you enjoy with,” he said.
Finance professional Sharon Yap, 42,a finance said that her key takeaway was learning to better communicate with her husband in the area of having a softened start-up.
Healthcare analyst Lynette Wang, 30, shared that she learned to be more tolerant of her husband’s flaws, especially when they argue; instead of getting upset, she will remind herself of his positive traits.
Engineer Xiang Juan, 34, learned that it is important to treat one’s spouse with good manners and respect, and to communicate in love. She would now learn to refrain from attacking the other person’s character and to focus on the issue instead.
For internal auditor Addy Lam, 32, he learned that most discussions end on the same note they begin with, and the right type of words are necessary to make effective repair attempts and prevent a heated argument from escalating further.