Five Keys for Resolving Marital Conflict
- Don and Sally Meredith for Two Becoming One
- 2003 5 Jun
Hand grenades or land mines?
Husbands and wives are usually one or the other when it comes to dealing with conflict in marriage – we tend to either explode immediately or bury our feelings to be triggered at a later date. Some of us are quick to throw our anger and pain right back at our spouse when a conflict surfaces. Some of us avoid conflict at all costs, burying our hurt deep in the recesses of our hearts until our spouse inadvertently detonates the pain.
If you are married and are two hand grenades, explosions are probably frequent, but quick, leaving scars on your souls.
If you are married and are two land mines, explosions are rare, but huge, leaving craters in your hearts.
If you are married as a hand grenade and a land mine, watch out, you never know when the explosions will come and they inflict all kinds of damage.
Which one are you?
Conflict is a reality in all marriages. How you deal with conflict is the ultimate test of your ability to communicate as a couple. Fortunately, scripture provides us with meaningful insights into effectively resolving conflict. The following five exhortations, founded on Scripture, are vital to accomplish redemptive conflict resolution.
1. Approach Each Other with Kindness and Concern
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for the building up of others according to their needs that it may benefit those whose listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Rejection, fear, and bitterness destroy communication, and conflicts cannot be resolved in threatening environments. Therefore, couples must seek God’s perspective in establishing an environment of kindness and concern. We are to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave” us and to “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12).
These positive attitudes form the “door” to marital communication through which husbands and wives must enter if they hope to resolve their differences.
2. Establish an Atmosphere of Mutual Vulnerability and Transparency
“For I wrote out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4)
Vulnerability is the ability to share one’s innermost feelings, thoughts, concerns, and aspirations without fear of rejection. Before differences can be resolved, both spouses must be able to trust each other enough to openly share without being put down or scolded.
This requires transparency — showing an honesty and openness in disclosing events, opinions, and feelings. If one spouse is truly transparent, the other will feel trusted and loved as well as respected. Being vulnerable says, “I respect and trust you enough to be transparent.” Transparency says, “I love you” and “I need you.”
3. Become Effective Listeners
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
When trying to resolve our conflicts, rather than listening we often tend to fall into one of these traps:
Planning our answer before our spouse is done talking
Selectively hearing what only sounds right to us
Coming into the conversation with our judgments already made
However, proper listening resolves differences by clarifying what our spouse is really feeling and saying. Consider these characteristics of effective listening:
Creating a non-threatening environment of understanding.
Shutting our mouths and opening our ears!
Providing more empathy rather than merely sympathy.
Demonstrating a teachable spirit.
4. Speak the Truth in Love
“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Speaking the truth in love requires discipline and a true desire for redemption. Here are a few points to keep in mind when speaking the truth in love:
Your goal should be to restore your spouse.
Your motivation should be to gain understanding.
Avoid cutting remarks that could start the “insult cycle.”
Try to keep your emotions under control.
Be a good listener by stopping and restating your spouse’s argument.
Make sure to pick a private place and optimal time for communicating.
Work toward prompt resolution and do not let the conflict linger.
5. Be Willing to Forgive
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)
Giving and receiving forgiveness is a nonnegotiable issue in resolving conflict and creating better communication with your spouse. Your ability to forgive your spouse is directly related to your spouse’s ability to rebound from conflict and sin and also to forgive you.
When you say, “I just can’t forgive you for what you did,” what you really mean is, “I choose not to forgive you.” Forgiveness is an act of the will based on faith in Christ.
When your spouse wrongs you, immediately entrust yourself to the Lord. Seek His perspective on the matter. Leave revenge to the Lord (Romans 12:14–20).
Remember, every marriage encounters conflict. In this conflict we have an opportunity to choose to trust God and His principles – leading to redemption and resolution – or to trust our own human instincts – leading to continued pain and desolation.
Copyright 2003 Christian Family Life