How to Resolve the Four Kinds of Marital Conflict
- Monday, November 05, 2007
Living peaceably means recognizing that a preference isn't sinful. Just because you think one way doesn't mean your spouse's opposite thinking is wrong--it's just different. Different isn't wrong. Your conflict is based in thinking that there's only one way to think about something or do something. But look at Proverbs 27:14: "If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse." If because you're an early riser you think it's pretty close to a sin to sleep in late, the Bible says you're cursing your friend. Some things just aren't in a sin category.
If your spouse thinks strongly about something, then it may be even more of a conflict if you feel that you're going to be forced to abide by your spouse's preferences. That's why you need to try to feel his passion or preference. That doesn't mean you need to change your preference, just understand how much it means to him. You may both choose to do your "own thing" separately if one person doesn't enjoy the desired activity, but leave room for both of you to do what you want at some point. Or take turns. If your conflict is about where to go on vacation, decide that one year you will go to the lake and the next year you will go to the mountains. Or find a place that has both a lake and a mountain.
If you feel that your own preferences aren't ever honored, first look at the word ever. Is that really true? Or is your spouse giving in on some things thinking she is pleasing you, except that particular thing isn't that important to you so you don't give her credit for her effort? But when you say "You never let me" or "We don't ever," your spouse may point out something that she thought she was doing for you but you hadn't noticed because it's not your important preference. This is why it's important to communicate what's valuable to you. And if your spouse tells you you're not really hearing what she says, listen! Really listen and try to feel her passion. Understand that just as your activity is important to you, so also is her activity to her.
4. Sin. When your spouse sins, he can certainly seem like the enemy. Yet Romans 12:17-21 tells us we have a choice whether to live peaceably with our enemy. That doesn't mean overlooking his sin or doing nothing about it, but it does mean having an attitude of good that isn't overcome by evil. And most of the time in conflict, evil means being angry. Being angry means that you're trying to be in control instead of allowing God to be, and that won't get you the result you want. Yes, you'll still need to call your spouse's attention to the sin. If it's horrible and terribly painful, like adultery, and your spouse refuses to remove himself from the sin, then you may need to separate legally. But most of the time, we're dealing with sin that is grievous but not liable to end the marriage. What then can we do?
God calls us to righteousness if we are the offended party. This is not a self-righteous, I'm-better-than-you attitude, but a humble heart like the one 1 Peter 3:8-9 describes: "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
Compassion means thinking, "I could do something like that, and even if I haven't, I've done something equally bad or pretty close." Sin is sin. Regardless of the degree of sin that we have committed, we've all fallen short. We all stand on equal ground before a holy God who has forgiven us. In those moments, Galatians 6:1-2 is a good reminder: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (NKJV). We could have done the same thing if we were tempted in the same way.
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