You must do THIS if you Want Your Relationship to Stand the Test of Time

We’ve talked about how to handle you own emotions when you approach conflict. We discussed when it’s appropriate to engage and when it’s wise to cool down first.  We also looked at how to appropriately handle ourselves during conflict. Today we will take a look at how to end conflict well.

Rule #13 Forgive and extend grace

Do you expect perfection or do you make room for growth?  You want people to treat you how you feel they should. You want them to control their tone of voice and act in a loving, respectful way 100% of the time but common now, that’s unrealistic.

Unless you’ve been in this personal development space for many years, acutely aware of your emotions and intentional about relationship growth you will be hard pressed to find someone fully developed in these areas.

My prayer for you is that you become the rarity.

It’s imperative to extend grace in a relationship. Early in my marriage I asked a couple married 25+ years what the most important advice they could give a younger couple, they said forgiveness. I couldn’t agree with them more. Even though this is the end of our relationship rules it very well could be the first rule because if you mess up all the other ones, this one can sustain you.  I know it has done my marriage wonders and Peter as I grew in the other rules.

Whose Stronger?

There is a super neat little tool I learned that Peter and I use to this day. It has sustained us during times of conflict and helped us make it though each season as we grow and mature.

After you’ve gone though conflict and the situation subsides, or if it hasn’t subsided and you’re both aroused in emotion, approach the other with an attitude of forgiveness and grace. Approach with softness, kindness and compassion, seeking and extending forgiveness.

His Strength Stretches Me

I’ll be honest (what else would you want)? Throughout the years Peter has been stronger in this area, he’s been the one to approach me first and make amends. This is a humble, noble thing to do and when he comes to me, I’m relieved and my anger plug is pulled. In that instant, whatever we are facing becomes just a tad it easier to mange.

Seeing his apologetic, forgiving heart, a soft touch and gently voice encourages me to increase my own inner-strength and extend the same grace towards him.

This has -kinda- become an unspoken challenge for us. Which one of us will be the “bigger person”? Which one of us will do the right thing and approach the other to end this conflict? Who will be the first to make things right between us?

Truth is… if you don’t make amends the relationship is over. Yikes, that’s a stark reality you may want to accept but think about it for a sec. If there’s division the relationship is halted, growth stops as you’ve mentally, emotionally and maybe even physically separate from one another.

This is not a rule you can omit, you must, must, must forgive, extend grace, put the issue down (for now) and work on it again, later.

The Secret Code

During a time of peace, talk about times of conflict and how you two will handle it.  Create a secret code that will signal the end of conflict.  Create a gesture that signals “I’m sorry, I forgive you and we can get though this.”  It can be difficult to say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” during heated moments yet it’s imperative to close conflict. Let this tool be the bridge to bring you back together.

Note: Bringing the argument to a close DOES NOT MEAN the problem at hand is solved. More often than not, it’s NOT solved. This can be frustrating because the problem is important to work through. But you cannot let an unsolved problems to put a rift between you two.

Bringing an argument to a close may mean a number of different things depending on the specific situation. Here are a few of the different meanings:

  • I’m sorry for the way I’ve handled this situation.
  • I’m sorry we are going through this.
  • I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you.
  • I’m sorry this is bothering.
  • We can get thought this – I haven’t given up on us.

Justified and Indignant

I get it, you are justified in your actions and don’t see the need to seek reconciliation. Whatever happened is their fault, they’e done wrong, they’ve acted out, they are stepping over the limits. At least this I how you feel.  I need to tell you this….at this point in the conflict, it doesn’t matter. Not that the conflict isn’t important to work though, but rather the relationship requires reconciliation.

A relationship consists of two individuals and you are both equally responsible for taking steps to repair it if it’s broken.  If the other involved is not taking steps towards repair, then the responsibility falls on you. I’m sorry to bear it to you but I must tell you how it is.

Whether you are right, wrong, justified or full of indignation, you must reconcile. At this point we are not taking about solving the issue at hand (put that aside for now).  Its not about you, or them, but it’s about the relationships.

This is a time of “for better or worse.”

You Look Different Than Me

This will look different for every couple depending on the individual but here are a few examples of what it may look like:

  • Walk unto them and wrap your arms around them.
  • Sit next to them and put one arm around them.
  • Maybe you look at them with a look of softness and you eyebrows crinkle in compassion and mouth the words “I’m sorry.
  • Take their hand or put your hand on top of theirs.

Remember, you are doing this after you’ve gone through a heated discussion. This will not be natural or easy. This will require intentionality. Your may be fighting ugly emotions, but don’t listen to them.

The Fork

It is during these difficult moments – at this fork in the road you are faced with a choice. To follow your unstable, ever changing emotions or to do what you know -deep down- you should do? At this moment you will need to decide which path you will take. The path towards life or death for your relationship?

There was a scenario I found myself in shortly after Peter and I had a heated discussion. I wanted to flee the home and go out with a friend but as I was about to leave a nudging within me told me to approach Peter, to give him a hug and apologize.

This was NOT what I wanted to do. It was not easy, it was not comfortable. I sat on the couch considering my options and this verse come to me, “If you sow to the flesh you will reap destruction, if you sow to the spirit you reap life,” Galatians 6:8.

For those who share the same faith you understand God leads us by speaking to our spirit. That little “inner-knowing” of what we should do is God. I had to decide if I would do what I (little ol’ selfish, justified me) wanted or if I would do what I knew was right and listen to God speaking to me.

I listened to the voice of wisdom and our relationship saw reconciliation because of it.

The Calm After the Storm

As you face your own relationship forks, I know you will take the higher road and choose wisdom.  You will take the path of forgiveness and reconciliation instead of remaining bitter and resentful. You will stop expecting perfection and you will make allowance for growth. I know you are challenged to do what’s right for the sake of your relationship and I have faith you will do it.

Not only will this principle breathe new life into your relationship but as you are strengthened you’ll be pleased with the person you are becoming.

Will you step up your game and extend grace even further? I challenge you to comment below with a “yes.”