Years ago, Tammy and I were leading a small group marriage study. This was the beginning of some changes in our own marriage and a desperate need for it to be strengthened. One particular meeting, we had finally reached a point of vulnerability in the group. Everyone was feeling free to share some of their struggles. As the Holy Spirit impressed on each of these couples to come clean on some of the conflict they had been experiencing, it quickly ended. It was the last couple’s turn to share.
Without any hesitation, he boasted, “We never argue! We agree on everything, and we have an amazing marriage.” I can still vividly remember watching this couple. He had a huge smile while his wife looked rather bewildered. He then turned to her to confirm what he had just stated as a fact. She halfway smiled, nodded, and responded, “Yes, we have never had a disagreement.”
Needless to say, the rest of us in the group were trying to not spit our coffee out in that moment. I’m sure we were all thinking the same thing. This may be true, but odds are that it isn’t. A great marriage isn’t one where conflict is absent, it’s one where we learn how to properly navigate our disagreements. Sadly, the couple who never argued also became the couple who divorced. Unresolved conflict and the resentment it created became way more than they were willing to address.
"A great marriage isn’t one where conflict is absent, it’s one where we learn how to properly navigate our disagreements."
Conflict doesn't work with the "highlight reel"
Unfortunately, too many couples have bought into the lie that a great marriage is measured by the highlight reel seen by others on the outside with the absence of any type of differing thoughts, desires, or actions. No matter how compatible a couple is there will be differing opinions that, if handled properly, make for a stronger relationship.
I couldn’t be more thankful for the ways Tammy and I are different. While we were dating, conflict of any kind was few and far between. It wasn’t that we didn’t have disagreements. We just quickly resolved the issue and moved forward … or so we thought. We married and the romance quickly moved to reality. We handled things very differently. We thought differently. We viewed conflict differently. We both were quick to engage in heated discussions in an attempt to get the other to see things our way. One thing was for sure, we were willing to duke it out, but desperately wanted to work it out. Neither of us were the hide-it-out kind.
We all handle conflict differently
We tend to confuse support for agreement. It’s not that we will always agree, but we must always support.
Marriage will bring something out in each of us that would not have surfaced otherwise. Knowing we are supported lowers our defenses so we can be honest when we don’t agree. We need to work on the skills necessary to pursue oneness.
Keep these nine things in mind as we discuss conflict resolution over the next few blogs:
- Submit to God’s will over your own will.
- The desire should be to seek the best way rather than your own way.
- The closest relationships are ones where we can openly communicate without shame.
- Perception or reality- each other’s feelings should be validated to then work through the process of healing.
- The tongue is like a poisonous snake, wild animal, and can cause a forest fire of issues. Only through God’s Spirit can you tame it and use it to bless your spouse rather than curse.
- Pray without ceasing.
- Always go after the problem without attacking the person. The easy thing is to belittle someone. It takes thought to consider the offense and work through that as opposed to attacking the person.
- Be willing to invite an objective voice if necessary.
- Lastly, we would never tell someone to stay in an unsafe situation. Seek the help you need if what you are navigating seems to be a toxic environment with no hope for resolution.