Hello, Will and Cindy Goff, friends of CFL here! Initial disclaimer for those reading this blog - the information shared has not always been adhered to in our marriage! For many years, we did not follow God’s plan. We were not believers…we were two individuals living in the same house. It wasn’t until we yielded our lives to Christ and followed His precepts that our marriage was healed. Then we began the process of emphasizing faith over performance. Since that time, we have been blessed to share what we have learned about God’s design for gaining intimacy through respectful communication. Christian Family Life’s resource, Two Becoming One, was an integral part of that process.
The Primary Source of Conflict
Recently, we asked couples what they thought was the cause of most conflict in marriage. Most stated finances, which does rank high on the conflict scale. The truth is that communication and commitment are listed as the primary reasons for divorce. Through their research, PREP, a premarital course, found that couples reported poor communication led to low marital satisfaction. The study identified that most premarital classes are not providing adequate communication strategies and the opportunity to practice them during premarital education (Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education, S. Scott, G. Rhoades, et. al: Couple Family Psychol. 2013 June).
Good communication involves both listening and speaking skills. It requires prayer, trust, time and planning. As good communication is practiced, it will not only enhance the marriage relationship, but will benefit children, serving as a model for achieving what communication is intended to do.
The Goal of Conflict Resolution
God’s principles for communication are scattered throughout the Bible. For example, Proverbs 12:18 states “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”. How easy it is to choose the wrong time or place to discuss topics which require more in-depth discussion. Numerous times we have “jumped into a discussion” without prayer or consulting with our spouse about their availability to discuss a matter. The results usually were unsatisfactory for both of us.
Coming to agreement on an issue when we see through different lenses continues to be the challenge even after being married 55 years! This statement is not meant to discourage those of you newlyweds. The process of yielding to your spouse through good communication allows a couple to truly become one. Here’s the point, two married people coming together as a single unit is a process of growing in intimacy. It is the task that is important here. The process should be that of mutual submission; difficult issues require this. It is the process of communication that reveals both individual’s perceptions and sets the stage for decision-making. Respecting each other’s views and inviting one another to share them provides the opportunity to discover more about the issue than either one alone could know. It further provides the opportunity to understand each other in a deeper and thus more intimate way.
5 Levels of Communication*
The goals in meaningful communication are to express our ideas clearly and effectively and to experience a deeper level of intimacy with our spouse. There are 5 levels of communication, and each level involves an increasing risk of conflict. The following are examples of each level:
1. Cliches: These verbal interactions are at the lowest level of risk for conflict.
Example: “Hi, have a great day.” or “Goodbye.”
2. Relaying Facts: These interactions are most found in the workplace or at the dinner table. Again, very little risk for conflict will occur.
Example: “We need to pick up the kids from school today.”
3. Stating Opinions: Now the risk of conflict or disagreement may occur as two unique individuals attempt to come to agreement.
Wife - “The car broke down again! I’m getting tired of that!”
Husband - “I will check on it when I find time.”
4. Expressing Feelings: The risk for conflict is now increased.
Wife - “Your new job appears to be stressing you out, it concerns me.”
Husband - “Look, trust me, I’m not feeling stressed!”
5. Revealing Needs: The highest risk for conflict.
Wife - “We need to find a babysitter for the weekend so I can have a break.”
Husband - “I’m not sure we can afford it. I am concerned about our budget.”
*Based on John Powell’s Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?
The Benefits of Conflict Resolution
Most individuals desire to avoid conflict, especially in an intimate relationship. The benefits of conflict resolution in marriage are that each individual gains a greater insight and understanding of their spouse. Through this process, greater intimacy will be achieved. Love and respect grow as the “two become one”.
As a Christian couple, we understand that when we enter marriage with Christ as the foundation, we will never be alone. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 The power of the Holy Spirit is available when we yield to the Lord and allow Him to guide and direct our lives. Yielding provides incredible fruit!