How to Resolve the Four Kinds of Marital Conflict
- Monday, November 05, 2007
ROMANS 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Conflict often makes our beloved seem like an enemy. We can easily begin to think, "It's me against you!" when we're supposed to be on the same side. Yet when we start picking a fight with our spouse and, in effect, try to take vengeance by getting our own way, we're certainly not trusting God to fulfill his promise to work in someone's life. If we're supposed to give food and water to our enemy, then let's resolve our conflicts with our best friend--our mate! Here's how to identify the four main kinds of conflict and what to do about them:
1. Faults and Weaknesses. Everyone has faults. Faults aren't sins. Faults could be based in the weaknesses of your spouse's personality. A person who seems to talk too much is a gregarious kind of person. You may judge that she talks too much, but that's because you may not talk much at all. She is most likely thinking you don't talk enough. This is not a conflict about sin; rather, it is a lack of compassion and understanding about who God created your spouse to be.
If your conflict comes from trying to change your spouse, remember that only God can change someone. It isn't your job. Don't allow conflict to separate you emotionally because of his fault or weakness. At the same time, you can gently point out how too much talking prevents both of you from contributing to the conversation. Speaking "peaceably" means inviting a dialogue--not haranguing your spouse for what you perceive is wrong. Ask God to make any changes that he wants. Believe it or not, he might not plan to change that person at this time, and you can relax and eliminate the conflict knowing that he has his perfect timing.
2. Unintended Emotional Injury. When someone hurts your feelings and he didn't intend to (although we might think he did), we can easily fall into the trap of blaming and taking it personally. Each person thinks he is right.
It's important to express your hurt by saying something like, "I know you didn't intend to hurt me, but I felt . . . [and share your feelings]." Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. He loves you, and most of the time, what you think is meant to hurt you isn't intended that way. It was most likely a misunderstanding, or he inadvertently touched on something that is a wound within you, possibly even from childhood.
Acknowledging the underlying causes of why this "triggers" you is essential. Most often, things from our childhood are at the root. For instance, a wife was neglected by her father, and so any slight by her husband takes her back emotionally (without her knowing it) to those longings of wanting her daddy to love her. Because of this trigger, she will need to take responsibility for her own reaction. The person who inadvertently hurt his or her spouse can remember this: "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out" (Proverbs 20:5). God wants you to compassionately invite your spouse to address her hurt and possibly her wound from the past.
The "offending" spouse will need to walk "peaceably" by not reacting in kind with anger or hurt. By keeping your cool, you will cover the situation with a calming balm. Proverbs 15:1 urges us, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
3. Preferences. During your courtship, you most likely appreciated the differences that completed you as a couple. If one of you is outgoing and friendly, the other person is most likely more reserved. You liked how your spouse made friends easily so that you didn't have to put out so much effort. But now that difference has made him or her into an enemy. You may feel that he is so friendly with everyone else that he ignores you.
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