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).
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.
- Top 15 Reasons Romantic Partners Fight (marriagegems.com)
Eccl4:9-12 “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up. And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken”.
Let us concern the threefold cord that binds people together in relationships. Though the above verse is often quoted during wedding ceremonies, but it applies to all relationships. In marriage especially, the threefold cord is the husband, wife and the Holy Spirit.
The Scripture says in Mal2:15 “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore, take heed to your spirit and let none deal treacherously in your relationship“. It is interesting to note that for every godly relationship, God expect godly seed. Therefore, make your friendship a healthy one based on godly principles and nothing else.
When two people enters into a relationship whether in marriage or in normal friendship, they automatically enters a covenant whether they recognize it or not.
We all know that apart from holy matrimony, there are other relationships we keep in church, office, school, family and business. In every godly relationship, there is one invisible partner (Holy Spirit) which is the cord that ties the relationship together.
When the people involved in this relationship are bound together by God’s principles and allowed the relationship to be based on God’s Word, then, the Holy Spirit which is the cord brings to bear faithfulness, forbearance, honesty, consideration, harmony, peace and joy which will culminate in open door of blessing from above.
In our society today, it is sad to note that not all relationships are bound together by God’s Spirit. It is amazing what ties or bind some people together.
Let’s take a closer look on some relationships we keep, you will discover the underlying cord. For example, two women who are against their mothers in law, their binding cord might be hate or bitterness; two employees who are against their employer might as well be joined together by a cord of unforgiveness.
Other cords that bind people together includes: womanizing, partying, prostitution, gossiping rebellion, etc… Any relationship that is not promoting the kingdom of God is certainly promoting the kingdom of darkness.
TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS
The common relationship serves to benefit oneself. These benefits may be in the form of money, glory, self—worth, rewards, etc. The relationship flourished as long as these benefits are flowing.
There is another form of friendship, which is not common. This is a relationship with no hidden agenda, it is the God’s type of relationship that flows with agape love, and it serves for the benefit of another.
We all desire this type of relationship, but very few people are willing to pay the price for this type of relationship.
Let’s consider some examples of relationships in the Scriptures.
1. Ruth and Naomi
(Ruth 1:16): Ruth and her mother in law; the cord that bound together was the cord of love, despite their cultural difference and religious background, they had undying love for each other. Pro17:17.
2. David and Jonathan (1Sam20:3-4, 16-17): King Saul knew the bond between his son Jonathan and David was a bond of love, so he kept his wicked plot against David’s life hidden from his son. Jonathan was ready to sacrifice everything for the relationship he had with David Pro18:24.
3. Daniel and his Friends (Dan2:17-19): Danger was looming over the land but Daniel and his companions decided to seek heaven’s intervention. Note they did not gather to murmur nor complain; neither did they gossip the king nor curse him. Pro15:4.
1Kgs13:18. A prophet lying to a fellow prophet.
1Kgs3:19-20. Two friends switching each other’s blessing.
Lk22:47-48. Jesus betrayed by a friend’s kiss (Judas Iscariot).
1Kgs21:10. Jezebel ordered the murder of Naboth by his kinsmen.
Acts6:10-14. Stephen murdered by the men of the synagogue
Acts23:12-14. Jews bound with an oath to destroy Paul the Apostle.
Every relationship worth having should be bound by the Spirit of God. Instead of that relationship being a weight that will lead to destruction, it should help the people involved withstand evil and a threefold cord is not easily broken.
In a nutshell, real friendships don’t just happen and they are not maintenance free.
For us to have valuable relationships we should ask ourselves some questions like: How would you describe your friendships? What is God doing in both of you, individually and together as friends? How can you help each other become all God wants you to be?
A relationship based on godly principles and sealed by the binding force of the Holy Spirit will be refreshing, peaceful and never burdensome.
Finally, Matt18:19-20 emphasizes the dynamic power available in prayer of agreement. So, let us utilize this mystery for our advantages and for the enhancement of God’s kingdom.
Let the Holy Spirit help us choose our friends and partners.
- The Priorities of a Godly Husband. (covenantfamilyaffairs.wordpress.com)
- The Christian Marriage (covenantfamilyaffairs.wordpress.com)