Updated: Apr 9, 2022
Benjamin Franklin once said “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.”
When Laurie and I were first married and any time we would have conflict, I would give Laurie the silent treatment. That’s what I learned from my parents. I wouldn’t say anything and neither would she. Obviously, our conflict never was resolved and would show its ugly head later down the road.
Instead of moving toward each other in oneness, it caused us to isolate and move away from each other. Someone once said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”
We eventually realized that we needed to do something different. We knew we had to talk through what was causing the conflict even if it was going to be hard.
We found that when we worked through our conflict with grace and forgiveness, we would go from isolation to growing closer in our relationship and moving toward oneness.
Family Life’s - ‘Art of Marriage’ video program tells us that conflict is common to all marriages. The goal in marriage is not to be conflict free but to how learn to handle conflict correctly when it does occur.
They suggest that healthy conflict happens when couples are willing to seek and grant forgiveness and suggests the following tips for communication:
*Address one issue at a time when you have a conflict.
*To navigate conflict successfully, you need the right tools.
*Seek to discover why the conflict began. When you do, you will find out what is important to your spouse.
*Communication works on 2 levels; the content level (truth) and the relational level (love)
*Keep from being too busy to listen to your spouse. Take time to resolve the conflict.
*Retrain yourself to be present in the moment with your spouse.
What does the Bible say about communication. Ephesians 4:15 says “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” James 1:19 says “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. . .”
Dealing with Anger:
James 4:1-2a says “What causes quarrels and fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
In other words, we choose to be angry rather than choosing to working things out. No one can make us angry. Conflict occurs when our desires aren’t fulfilled or we don’t get what we want.
James 1:20 says “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Tips for Cooling Off:
In the ‘Art of Marriage’, they give these tips to cooling off when in a heated conflict.
*Take a deep breath and relax.
*Look each other in the eye while you both are sitting or standing.
*Speak softly and slowly (Proverbs 15:11 says “A soft answer turns away wrath.”)
*Keep your legs and arms uncrossed. Do not clench your fists or purse your lips.
*Keep reminding yourself and your spouse that “We can find a win-win resolution to this.”
*Watch your language. Wrong words can escalate a conflict. Never use words like never, always, unless, can’t, won’t, don’t, should, and shouldn’t. You can de-escalate a conflict with words like maybe, perhaps, sometimes, what if, it seems like, I feel, I think, and I wonder.
*Affirm and acknowledge the other person.
*Ask questions that encourage the other person to look for a solution. Ask open ended questions rather than ones that evoke a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.
Confronting in Love:
The ‘Art of Marriage’ says that. . .
*we are fallen creatures and we can expect conflict in marriage.
*there are many things in a marriage that are not worth fighting about. (1 Peter 4:8 says “Love covers a multitude of sins.”)
*there are things that over time need to be addressed.
*to lovingly confront when issues are undermining your relationship.
*When we are preparing to confront we should always examine our heart. (Matthew 7:4). We need to spend time in prayer. Be sure to check your motives and choose your timing wisely.
*When it’s time to confront, be sure to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and choose your words carefully (Ephesians 4:29).
Thoughts When Considering to Confront:
The ‘Art of Marriage’ says to be sure to you consider these thoughts when preparing to confront.
*Is it worth it or can I just let it go? (Proverbs 19:11)
*Have I spent time praying about the issue?
*What pattern or habit of mine contributed to the problem?
*Is it the right time to confront?
*What's my motivation? Am I trying to. . .
retaliate or restore?
punish or pursue peace?
*Am I “seeing the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)
*Choose your words carefully. (Ephesians 4:29)
*The goal of lovingly confrontation is to restore oneness in your marriage. (Galatians 6:1)
In the 'Art of Marriage’, we are told to seek forgiveness. Here are some thoughts below.
*We need to seek and grant forgiveness of others because of what Christ has done for us. (Ephesians 4:32)
*Some hindrances to seeking forgiveness are. . .
-lacking time to communicate
-being proud in relationships.
-being too general about the offense and allowing offenses to pile up.
*When seeking forgiveness. . .
-begin by admitting to God and yourself that you were
-spend time in prayer.
-accept responsibility for the consequences.
-change (consider the attitudes that may have led to the offense and seek to correct them.)
Steps to Seeking Forgiveness:
The ‘Art of Marriage’ shares the following steps when seeking forgiveness.
1. Be specific: “I’m sorry for _______________.”
2. Repent: “I was wrong and don’t want to do that again.”
3. Ask for forgiveness: “Will you forgive me?”
The ‘Art of Marriage’ talks about what to do when granting forgiveness.
*True forgiveness is not. . .
-forgetting everything that has happened.
-pretending that something did not happen.
-an automatic cure for the hurt.
*True forgiveness is. . .
-a choice to set your spouse free from the debt of the offense.
-an attitude of letting go of resentment and vengeance.
-the first step towards a process of rebuilding trust.
-an act of obedience to God.
Steps to Granting Forgiveness:
These are the steps for granting forgiveness from the ‘Art of Marriage’.
Do it privately: Go to God in prayer
“God forgive __________for hurting me.”
2. Do it publicly and specifically: Go to your spouse and be specific.
“I forgive you for ___________________.”
3. Do it graciously: Keep the bigger goal in mind.
“Let’s settle this and get on with our relationship.”
4. Do it generously: Acknowledge your own failings to maintain balance.
“I’ve done things like that myself.”
Compromise without Connection:
When we compromise without connection, it can feel like we lost. We move father apart rather than closer together. It can feel threatening. We tend to distance ourselves from each other. Fear and insecurity can take over the relationship.
Compromise with Connection:
But when we compromise with connection, it feels like love. We move closer together rather than apart. Closer connections happen. We let down our guard and validate each other’s feelings rather than defending our own.
This kind of intimacy happens only when we chose to seek to understand, move past behavior and stay connected even in conflict.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “God gives you Christ as the foundation of your marriage. ‘Welcome one another. . . as Christ has welcomed you. For the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7). . . .
Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts."
When we’re connected, conflict can become less scary and love has fertile ground to grow even deeper.
May God bless you as you move from conflict to connection in your marriages.