Few couples like to admit it, but conflict is common to all marriages. I have had my own share of conflict in marriage. I can easily write a book on what not to do!

Take a look at this scenario: Start with two self centered people with different backgrounds and personalities. Now add some bad habits and interesting character traits, throw in a bunch of expectations, and then turn up the heat a little with the daily trials of life. Guess what? You are bound to have conflict. It’s unavoidable. Since every marriage has its tensions, it isn’t a question of avoiding them but how you deal with them. Conflict can lead to a process that develops unity or isolation. You and your partner must choose how you will act when conflict occurs.

How do You Successfully Handle Conflict When it Occurs?

#1. Resolving conflict requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to your differences.

One reason why we have conflict in marriage is that opposite attracts. It’s strange but that’s part of the reason why you married who you did. Your spouse added a variety, spice, and difference to your life that it didn’t have before. But after being married for a while (sometimes a short while), those attractions become repellents. You may argue over small irritations such as how to properly squeeze a tube of toothpaste or over major philosophical differences in handling finances or raising children. You may find that your backgrounds and your personalities are so different, that you wonder how and why God placed you too together in the first place. It’s important to understand these differences, accept and adjust to them. Just as Adam accepted God’s gift of Eve, you are called to accept His Gift to you. God gave you a spouse who completes you in ways you haven’t even learned yet.

#2. Resolving conflict requires defeating selfishness.

All of our differences are magnified in marriage because they feed what is undoubtedly the biggest source of our conflict; our selfish, sinful nature. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. Jas4:1-2 (NIV). This is the heart of what makes our conflict ugly, our sin and selfishness focuses us on our own agenda. The answer for ending selfishness is found in Jesus and His teachings. He showed us that instead of wanting to be first, we must be willing to be last. In place of wanting to be served, we must serve, instead of trying to save our lives, we must lose them. We must love our neighbors (our spouses) as much as we love ourselves. In short, if we want to defeat selfishness, we must give up, give in, and give all. To experience unity, you must give up your will for the will of another. But to do this, you must first give up your will to Christ, and then you will find it possible to give up your will for that of your mate.

#3. Resolving conflict requires loving confrontation.

Confronting your spouse with grace and tactfulness requires wisdom, patience, and humility. Here are a few tips you will find useful:

 Check your motives: Will your words help or hurt? Will bringing this up cause healing, wholeness, and oneness, or further isolation?

 Check your attitude: Loving confrontation says, “I care about you. I respect you and I want you to respect me. I want to know how you feel.” Don’t hop on your bulldozer and run your partner down. Don’t pull up with your garbage truck and start unloading all the garbage you’ve been saving. Approach your partner lovingly.

 Check the circumstances: This includes timing, location, and setting. Don’t confront your spouse, for example, when he/she is tired from a hard day’s work or in the middle of settling a dispute between the children.

 Check to see what other pressures may be present: Be sensitive. What are the issues going on in your spouse’s life right now?

 During the discussion, stick to one issue at a time: Don’t bring up several. Don’t save up a series of complaints and let your spouse have them all at once.

 Focus on the problem, rather than the person: For example, you need a budget and your mate is something of a spendthrift. Work through the plans for finances and make the lack of budget the enemy, not your mate.

Focus on the facts rather than being judgmental: If your partner forgets to make an important call, deal with the consequences of what you both have to do next rather than say, “You’re so careless; you just do things to irritate me; you are useless and good for nothing.”

 Above all, focus on understanding your spouse rather than on who is winning or losing. When your spouse confronts you, listen carefully to what is said and what isn’t said. It may be that he is upset about something that happened at work and you’re getting nothing more than the brunt of that pressure. In other words, you are not the problem and all your spouse is trying to do is express some pent-up frustrations and feelings.

#4. Resolving conflict requires forgiveness

No matter how hard two people try to love and please each other, they will encounter challenges. With these challenges comes hurt. And the only ultimate relief for hurt is the soothing balm of forgiveness.

The key to maintaining an open, intimate, and happy marriage is to ask for and grant forgiveness quickly. And the ability to do that is tied to each individual’s relationship with God. Concerning the process of forgiveness, Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt6:14–15). The instruction is clear: God insists that we are to be forgivers, and marriage probably more than any other relationship presents frequent opportunities to practice. Forgiving means giving up resentment and the desire to punish. By an act of your will, you let the other person off the hook. And as a Christian you do not do this under duress, scratching and screaming in protest. Rather, you do it with a gentle spirit and love, as Paul urged: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph4:32).

Our Hope

As difficult as it is to work through conflict in marriage, we can claim God’s promises as we do so. Not only does God bless our efforts based on His Word, but He also tells us He has an ultimate purpose for our trials. 1 Pt1:6-7 tells us, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

God’s purpose in our conflicts is to test our faith, to produce endurance, to refine us, and to bring glory to Himself. This is the hope He gives us that we can actually approach our conflicts as an opportunity to strengthen our faith and to glorify God.

Advertisements