How a couple resolves conflict is a direct reflection of their state of oneness and unity. Learning how to resolve conflict is one of the most important keys to a healthy marriage because it isn't a matter of IF you will have conflict...you are two different people, with differing opinions, differing personalities, differing tempers, etc...you WILL have conflict.
There are 3 key elements of "fighting fair" we have learned and put input practice over the past 23 years of marriage:
learning how to agree to disagree.
learning about each other's strengths to grow in our own weaknesses.
learning that sometimes our differences aren't a matter of right or wrong, they are just differences... and that is o.k.
How exactly do we "fight fair" or like we put it "have intense fellowship"? I'd like to briefly discuss 4 key elements of resolving conflict that we have learned and applied in our own marriage. The first 2 points will be shared in this blog, while points 3 & 4 will be in "We Fight Too PART 2". This information is a culmination of marriage events, classes, and books we have gleaned from with Family Life Ministries and their Weekend to Remember events.
Point 1: Where does conflict come from?
To put it bluntly...conflict happens when we don't get what
we want. We are selfish by nature and that is why we need God. That is why we need a relationship with Jesus...so that our hearts can be changed to be a reflection of an unselfish, loving, forgiving God (James 4:1-2).
What does that look like?
Many times we put unrealistic expectations on our spouse that he/she was never created to meet. Only God can fill our deepest needs and when we purpose to put a relationship with Jesus first, that is when the relationship with our spouse will be most successful.
When conflict does occur and our own individual desires are not met, anger is a typical response. The key is not to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26). Anger is a secondary response to something else that triggered the hurt. Learning one another's LOVE LANGUAGES as well as STRENGTHS, and how to use those differences to strengthen your marriage, are helpful ways to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Inevitably though, there are unfulfilled desires that can lead to conflict and the only way it can be resolved is if both husband and wife choose to be committed to ONENESS in marriage. You did that as a couple the day you got married..."what God has joined together, let no man [including yourselves] separate them." (Mark 10:9)
Point 2: Resolving conflict requires LOVING confrontation.
A. What is more important? Being right OR the relationship?...Keeping that in mind take a look at the offense BEFORE you confront.
Determine if the offense needs confronted...is this something that can be overlooked because it's really nothing after all? (Proverbs 19:11)
Take a look at your part in the offense. We are so quick to blame the other person; but really our first question should be: What was my part in this? What habit of mine or pattern of mine contributed to this conflict?
God looks at the heart and so should we...examine your heart in the matter. Am I trying to RETALIATE? RESTORE? PUNISH? PURSUE PEACE?
Remember you are not each other's enemy...you are on the same team and the goal should be to restore and bring peace.
B. How do I talk to my spouse?
How do we confront conflict without having it erupt? Remember what we shared in our communication blog about "knee to knee and face to face"?
First an foremost we have to speak the truth in LOVE. (Ephesians 4:15; 29) God is LOVE. He doesn't just give love...GOD IS LOVE. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ then LOVE...God Himself, His very LOVE nature (1 John 4:8), is living on the inside of you. Greater is He on the inside of you then this conflict that is happening on the outside of you (1 John 4:4). You CAN'T loving confront without LOVE...God...living on the inside of you. It's His power of love on the inside of you is what you will CHOOSE to walk in when you loving confront. This is why a relationship with God has to be FIRST...it will make the marriage relationship, any relationship for that matter, work much better (Mark 12: 30-31).
Choose WORDS wisely. Words can bring hurt or healing...the tongue can be an ice pick provoking fear; or a paint brush smoothing the rough places and building up. Speak with words of humility and always
speak the truth in love. The purpose is to bring
unity...restore oneness in the marriage relationship (Galatians 6:1). That is why Jesus died on the cross...so we have a bridge that would bring us back to oneness with God. Marriage is a picture of that relationship. Jesus in us is the bridge of God's LOVE that will keep us coming back to ONENESS in Him, through Him and consequently in our marriage.
Point 3: Forgiveness is the sealant of resolving conflict.
The Word of God is very clear that we must forgive just as Christ has forgiven us. (Ephesians 4:32). We are to be KIND to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.
Kindness disarms a potentially explosive conflict. Forgiveness is not based on feelings...it is a choice and it is a choice to obey what God's Word says. We have heard it said multiple times that forgiveness doesn't make the other person right, it makes your heart free. God looks at the heart...we want to keep our hearts right with God (1 Samuel 16:7). Forgiveness is a MUST if we are going to be able to do that. It is our responsibility to God to see and grant forgiveness.
What does forgiveness look like?
A. Seeking Forgiveness
B. Granting Forgiveness
Forgiveness means you give up the right to punish the other person. You've relinquished the desire to get even. How do we do this?
Seeking and granting forgiveness may be new for some. Pick a "neutral" conflict topic and role play what seeking forgiveness would look like; then what granting would look like.
This may seem silly; however, it is powerfully proactive to put into practice the "right" way to resolve conflict BEFORE it happens.
As a couple decide that you will handle conflict in a Godly way in order to achieve oneness and restoration in your relationship.
When you fall short (we all do) communicate...be quick to forgive...and remember you are on the same team!
Check out PART 2 of "We Fight Too"