When it comes to a fight, mummy-mentor and content creator for Facebook community Real Mums SG, Mrs Jodi Yong, would describe herself as a rhinoceros, ever ready to charge into battle. Her husband, on the other hand, is a hedgehog, withdrawing into silence.
Whenever this happens, he would feel attacked by her need to talk about things, while she would be hurt by his silence — putting them in a deadlock. This is why she believes that to resolve conflict, it is not always necessary to jump into finding a solution.
“We had to learn to take a step back and give each other space to come away from our negative emotions before we start saying things that we regret,” Jodi shares.
Practice emotional safe distancing
This act of giving each other space is what Mrs Claire Nazar, master trainer of the Preparation and Relationship Education Programme, and Director for Kalko Law LLC, calls “emotional safe distancing”, a feature she thinks is important to resolve conflicts.
She explains that barging in to solve problems, however “right” one may be, can lead to things being said in a fit of emotion and make matters worse.
For example, she used to send lengthy text messages to explain herself, only to be more upset when her husband and children did not reciprocate. Since then, she’s begun journalling to process her thoughts. Only with calmness and more clarity does she then ask herself: “Do I really still feel the same way?”
“The purpose is to create emotional safety, where someone of a hedgehog personality would dare to go forward and say: "I’m willing to connect with you. Now I’m willing to talk, now I’m willing to share,” she says.
Be a good forgiver
The uncomfortable fact is that not all conflicts have solutions. When that happens, “thinking negatively is not going to help you, especially in terms of your health. In the long term, it’s not going to change anything,” Claire explains.
Borrowing the words of author Ruth Bell Graham, Claire emphasises: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
“Accept that the person that you're married to has faults just as much as you have.”
Understandably, when one is more likely to be consumed by the wrongs the other party has committed, it is hard to remember to forgive, Jodi shares. For her, recognising that it takes two hands to clap was crucial to helping her learn to apologise.
Don’t let the anger fester
But what about sweeping things under the rug?
“That certainly is not okay at all. You’ll find yourself ambushed by an issue your partner raises when you least expect it,” Claire declares.
“This is what happens when couples don’t talk — you find yourself with lots of long periods of silences, and then a blow up, and then it goes on in that same cycle,” she elaborates.
So talk about it and remember that “your partner is not your enemy”.
“Approach the issue as a team,” she advises. “Appreciate the differences you face and recognise that just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are wrong.”
The content of this article was adapted from an interview from CNA938 Family Ties. For more parenting tips, visit www.familiesforlife.sg or check out #AskFFL on the Families for Life Facebook page.