How to Use Conflict to Grow Closer in Your Marriage
- Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Drs Les and Leslie Parrot's recent book, The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer, (Worthy Publishing, 2013).
All couples fight, since conflict is inevitable in every marriage between two different human beings in a fallen world. But just because you can’t avoid conflict doesn’t mean that you have to let it damage your relationship.
What matters most to the quality of your marriage isn’t whether you fight, but how you fight. If you learn to fight well, you and your spouse can use the conflict in your relationship to grow closer together and strengthen your marriage. Here’s how you can do so, with God’s help:
See each other as allies, not adversaries. Pray for the right perspective on your spouse, so you can keep in mind each day that your spouse is your teammate in life (not your enemy). Make it a goal to use your energy to work together toward common goals as often as possible.
Distinguish the differences between a bad fight and a good fight. The goal of a bad fight is winning the fight, but the goal of a good fight is resolving the issue. A bad fight focuses on surface issues, while a good fight focuses on underlying issues at the root of the problem you’re trying to solve. In a bad fight, the emphasis is on personalities and power struggles, but a good fight emphasizes ideas and issues. Bad fights reveal confrontational and defensive attitudes, while good fights show cooperative and receptive attitudes in action. Couples in a bad fight shift blame to each other, while couples in a good fight take personal responsibility. In a bad fight, couples belittle each other and display egocentric and self-righteous behavior, but in a good fight, couples respect each other and act with empathy and understanding toward each other. A bad fight escalates tension between couples, while a good fight eases tension. While a bad fight leads to discord, stagnation, and distance in a couple’s relationship, good fight produces harmony, growth, and intimacy in a marriage relationship.
Keep the benefits of good fighting in mind. Good fights offer many benefits that can strengthen your marriage, including: authenticity that will help you trust each other more, clarity about what you each value and what issues concern you all, a fresh start for your relationship after clearing out tension and resentments, and security that fortifies your commitment to each other.
Guard against pride and develop humility. The greatest contributing factor to bad fights is pride. So beware of pride creeping into your soul and guard yourself against it by praying daily for God’s help for you to develop a humble heart, like Jesus Christ modeled during His life on Earth.
Pursue cooperation. Aim to find win-win solutions to the problems about which you’re fighting, so both of you can benefit. Whenever that’s not possible, simply agree to disagree.
Pursue ownership. Rather than blaming your spouse or your circumstances for the problems you’re facing, take responsibility by admitting your own imperfections, mistakes, or neediness that have contributed the problems.
Pursue respect. Try your best to always leave your spouse’s dignity intact when you’re arguing. Ask God to help you respect your spouse, whether or not you believe your spouse deserves it, because God calls you to give each other love and respect unconditionally. Keep in mind that respect will keep dangerous contempt from building up in your marriage and create an atmosphere of safety within your relationship.
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