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EDITOR’S NOTE: While regular Millennial Monday blogger Emily Howsden is away on maternity leave, Millennial Monday will continue as guest bloggers fill in over the next couple of weeks.

My wife, Natalie, and I share the core values that make us who we are (our faith, our character, etc.), but that doesn’t mean things always fall into place.

Every day, we discover areas where we have very different expectations.  This is where we experience most of our conflicts, ones that do not deal with our core beliefs but are still significant and challenging.

After one year of marriage, we’ve discovered a process that works best for us, to help us resolve those conflicts in a meaningful, productive way.

  1. Name it.

Specific, precise language is an incredibly valuable tool for conflict resolution.  Sadly, many people do not tap into the power of naming their problems.

It’s a fundamental truth that naming something gives you power over it.  Jesus even commanded demons to reveal their true names before he cast them out.

We’ve learned that it is good to look boldly into the vague, foggy feelings we get from heightened emotions, then force them to show themselves.  Together, we must make them reveal what they truly are and why they are there.  Then, we must put real words to them.  It can often be a painful (and surprising) process, but it’s worth every bit of effort.

In our marriage, giving a precise, pointed name to a problem has miraculous results.

  1. Compromise.

Conflict often turns out to be nothing more than a simple misunderstanding.  However, sometimes there is a real impasse even after total honesty and introspection.

For us, the richer solutions come where we each must make a sacrifice to get to the middle ground.

Jesus also set an example of how love is characterized by sacrifice. He gave up every bit of himself to restore God’s relationship with humanity.  Sacrifice gives substance to love.

There are times to resolve and stand firm, but very little is truly as important as we make it.

  1. Express gratitude.

Once it’s over, take every opportunity to show the other person how much you value their sacrifice.  Use all the love languages generously: words, time, touch, gifts, and acts of service.

I didn’t think the appreciation mattered to me.  That is, until Natalie went out of her way to thank me for a compromise we made on family time recently.

It felt so special, I couldn’t help but reciprocate it.  Positive reinforcement is real for marriage too.

Because our families’ demographics look the same on paper, we never could have imagined how many small issues we would have to reconcile.  It turns out that we do almost everything differently – meal prep, shopping and even just watching TV.

The good news is that these are easy to change, but character is not.  That’s why I’m so thankful for Natalie and her beautiful character, which both encourages me and endures me every day.

Share this with the people in your life who need it!

(P.S. Please don’t imagine that Natalie and I have ever executed this perfectly – it’s a work in progress!)