Married couples often think about conflict with each other in black and white terms. Solving problems is all or nothing – meaning every issue, no matter how small or insignificant, is argued over – or they go to the other extreme, no issue ever gets resolved, no matter how destructive it is to the relationship.
There’s a better way. Counselor and author Dr. Randy Schroeder encourages couples to view marital conflict in terms of scratches, cuts, and lacerations:
Scratches are superficial wounds caused by things like misunderstandings or thoughtless words. Scratches sting, but they generally heal on their own. In most cases, an apology is all that’s necessary to heal a scratch.
Cuts are deeper and more serious. They’re not to be ignored. When cuts aren’t given proper attention, they fester and grow infected. Relational cuts require more than a simple apology to heal. They require time, humility, and a willingness to address whatever created the cut in the first place.
Lacerations are the most severe. They’re inflicted by egregious behavior such as adultery, physical abuse, or verbal abuse. These wounds put a marriage in the ICU and usually require professional intervention.
Successful couples avoid all or nothing extremes. They don’t race to the emergency room over simple scratches, but they give cuts and lacerations the attention they need to heal.