My wife and I often joke that we had a conflict once in our marriage of 47 years so we wrote a book about it. Not exactly true. We’ve had many conflicts, but conflicts do not have to be harsh or out of control. After all, we face conflicts daily in life and we tend to handle them better with complete strangers than we do with our spouse or our children.
Why is that? We have nothing invested in the stranger, but we have everything invested in our marriage and family.
Conflicts often originate from blocked goals; we are wanting something and not getting it. We may even want something good, but the goal or the need is blocked by something, by someone. What we do at this point is totally up to us. We can bust our way through with anger or we can go silent and walk out. We can pretend we’re not having a conflict and not deal with it or we can become abusive in our response all in an effort to get what we want and when we want it.
Here are seven suggestions that can help us when it comes to marriage conflicts:
- Even in conflict we need to maintain a right attitude toward one another. Conflict is not always detrimental in marriage, but it does test our faith, our patience and our personal level of grace. According to the scriptures, it also develops character (See Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4.). Remember that in marriage our conflict is deeper because our love is deeper.
- The natural response to conflict is more conflict, a desire to win or a desire to just bail. But when we push through, pray through and persevere through, the trial and the outcome will be perseverance doing its work (See James 1:4.). Don’t quit and give up; believe for a resolve because the more we learn to persevere through the conflict, the more victories we will experience.
- Keep in mind that whatever we sow, we reap. If we sow anger, we’ll reap anger. If we sow the negative we will be sure to reap the negative. The seed of criticism and name calling cannot produce the fruit of peace or righteousness.
- Do not hold onto negative words, bitterness, criticism, or anger because these things will bite you in the end. Peter told us to be considerate in our marriages and to treat one another with respect (I Peter 3:1-9). Jesus never treats us in disrespect, anger or abuse.
- In each and every conflict, be aware of selfish ambition because many of our conflicts arise from a felt need or desire regardless of how another feels. In Philippians 2 Paul reminds us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others [my spouse] better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others [my spouse].”
- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8) Love often means overlooking an offense, forgetting, not pointing out failures, not reminding one another of past mistakes, forgiving and keeping no record of wrongs.
- Lastly, as conflicts are resolved, God uses those areas in our lives to help others. I know that might sound far off right now, but it’s true. We will have authority to speak into that which we have had to grow through and have successfully won the battles with.
The number one reason marriages do not make it today is the inability of two adults to respectfully and honorably resolve conflict with each other. Put into practice the points above and you’ll be on your way to resolving conflict. Conflict is not wrong in a relationship, but unresolved conflict certainly is.