Dealing with Conflict in Marriage
It is unavoidable in marriage. How we deal with conflict makes all the difference in how healthy and strong our marriage becomes.
- There are couples who deal with conflict with shouting matches that could flatten a wheat field. Ken Sande in his book, The Peacemaker, calls these types, “Peace Breakers.”
- There are couples who deal with it by ignoring it, “Peace Fakers.”
- There are couples who deal with it by blame-shifting.
- There are couples who deal with it by giving the silent treatment to punish the other spouse.
We all have our natural, sin-born tendencies. But how to get beyond these tendencies to a mature response is our goal as Christians.
James 4:1-2a says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have...”
We often ask couples who are experiencing regular conflict, “What is it you want that you aren’t getting?”
Think of your most recent conflict. With our current Shelter-in-Place ordinance, this may be happening more often than normal. What was the issue? At what point did you feel irritated or angry? Can you identify what it was that you wanted that you weren’t getting? Were you able to talk about it? Did your conversation bring a resolve to the issue or did it make things worse? The best way to know the answer to this last question is if a similar incident happens again. If you refer back to this conflict, you’ll know there is unresolved conflict hiding in your heart.
It may be that what you are wanting is a legitimate request, e.g. more quality time together vs. quantity time. The key to growing in your ability to deal with conflict is being willing to talk about it. But when you do, there are some important rules to follow.
Five Guidelines in Discussing Heart Issues
- Make sure the time is right to have a good conversation.
- Come with an inquiring mind not an accusing one. “Can we talk about something that is bothering me?”
- Lower your voice and speak softly.
- Ask questions instead of making blanket statements. “When you said this did you mean it this way?”
- Treat your spouse as a physician would--looking to help heal, and not as a prosecuting attorney--looking to find fault and declare them guilty. “How can I handle this situation in the future to help you?”
This last one comes from Gary Thomas in his book, Cherish. Such great advice.
With all of us living 24/7 in such close proximity, facing the biggest challenge in our lifetime, let’s ask God to help us be kind to each other. Let’s ask for wisdom in how to deal with our conflicts so we may grow and mature. And let’s step back and remember what a gift our spouse is to us. It’s easy to forget when all we can see are the ways they are irritating us.
Purpose to focus on the good and the good may be all you see.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” - Proverbs 12:18 ESV
Links to reference books: