Conflict happens. Every person has conflict in their life. Every marriage has conflict. Ours is no different.
Ashley and I both create conflict in our marriage. We typically bring it upon ourselves with stubbornness and selfishness. Ashley and I like sports and are slightly competitive. Because of that, we will get into lighthearted and sometimes serious arguments when playing together. Oddly enough, lots of our fights happen when we are trying to do something fun. I will want to do something, she will want something else, and so the fight starts while we try to win the argument for the restaurant or movie. Sometimes conflict comes around the topic of sex. Or money. Or kids. Really, it can be about anything.
Conflict happens. Kids get sick. Money gets tight. People we love hurt us in some way. It comes to us because life happens and tensions rise.
We all face it in marriage. How do we deal with conflict well, and even use it to grow closer and stronger as a couple?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9
Dang. Does this verse reflect how I treat Ashley and care for her, especially in conflict? Do I actively try to make peace or keep peace? How do I make and maintain peace in our marriage?
After chewing on this for a while, I came up with 7 practical keys to diffuse conflict. I also wrote some questions that I need to keep in front of me to love my wife well. To the list!
1. Be honest. Ephesians 4:15 says to “speak the truth in love.” I want honesty to be a consistent theme in my communication with Ashley. If either one of us is upset, honest communication is so helpful. Honesty doesn’t always solve the issue, but it does get us on the same page. Do you tell the truth even when it is difficult and doesn't benefit you? Are there areas of your life currently where you are not truthful? What are they?
2. Keep trust. Even when we fight I trust Ashley. My hope is that she trusts me too. Our marriage is built on trust and it allows us to disagree and come together well. In conflict, do you resort to slander or gossip? Are there areas of your life where you are not trustworthy?
3. Give respect. I think the world of my wife. She’s my best friend, and I respect her as a woman, wife, and mom. It’s also important to me that she would feel the same about me. When respect is given, fights don’t go too far. Nothing needs to get thrown across the room. You don’t have to throw out extreme words at the other person. Do you respect people when you are in conflict with them? Do you look for something honorable in people so you can give them respect?
4. Pray for your spouse. Ouch. This one is a tough one for me. I’ll admit that intentional prayer is not my biggest strength. When I am consistently praying for Ashley I want to make peace with her quicker than when I just want to be angry for a while. Do you pray for people you are in conflict with? Do you seek to find out specific ways to pray for others? Do you pray for others' good? Do you have a habit of praying in every situation?
5. Be patient. When Ashley and I signed up for marriage, we signed up for life. In that, we are still learning and growing and trying to figure each other out. There are things I see that Ashley needs to adjust, and I know she sees things in me. But, since we signed up for life, we can be patient with each other. Do you decide to be patient when people are slow to change or don't seem to change? In conflict, do you patiently seek resolution or do you quickly make consequential decisions?
6. Forgive. If there’s one thing that our marriage needs, it’s forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 13 says, "aim for restoration, comfort one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you." I have a responsibility to forgive Ashley when she sins against me. Practically, that means that there are times when I need to lovingly approach Ashley on an issue where she isn't saying sorry. Other times I will need to compassionately and humbly forgive her, remembering that God does the same for me. Are you quick to forgive and to pursue peace?
7. Defend your spouse. Early on in our marriage I heard the advice to NEVER belittle my wife in public. If there is something that Ashley needs to change, I have the privilege and responsibility as a husband to talk with her in private and hold her up high in public. Ephesians 5 talks about this as Jesus holds us up as pure even though we have faults and things we need to change. In conflict, do you defend your spouse in front of others, even in private? Do you defend people's honor by trying to resolve conflict privately? Do you defend others when they don't defend you?
THE BIGGEST KEY
The biggest key is to look to Jesus as our example. In marriage and relationships (and really everything), Jesus is our standard. He was always honest with his words, motivations, and actions. He was trustworthy and faithful to follow through on his words. Jesus gave respect to others in the way he spoke to them and looked to help people change. He consistently and faithfully prayed for others. He was patient with his friends, enemies, and strangers. He forgave people that everyone else had given up on. He defended the hope of the poor and makes his defense for us in heaven. He’s the perfect example for how to deal with conflict in marriage.
Conflict happens. It is in conflict that the Gospel shines through, and it gives us opportunity to show Jesus to others who are watching our conflict unfold. Take conflict as an opportunity to love your spouse well and to grow in your faith with them.
Do you see another key that would help? Shoot us a comment!