The bedroom door shut behind him and Brian sat on the edge of the bed in the dark. Face in his hands he wondered, “This is not working anymore. How am I going to love Linda for the rest of our lives? I just hurt her so badly … so, so badly. What is wrong with me?” Fear and hopelessness from unhealthy conflict smothered him. Down the hall, trembling with anger and heartbreak, and tears streaming down her face Linda wondered, “Is that really the man I married? Am I really supposed to be married to him? Maybe, just maybe we missed God’s will when we married.”
Can you relate? Way too many couples can, and they suffer in silence thinking they are the only ones who have issues. Their public perception isn’t anywhere near the reality that is playing out at home.
The Root of Unhealthy Conflict
In past blogs we have discussed a biblical approach to navigating conflict in your marriage. In this blog we add to the discussion the many ways that conflict is unhealthy. Dealing with the root of conflict points us to the very heart of the transformation we so desperately need to experience oneness in any relationship - faith.
The book of James tells us that faith without works is dead and summarizes what marks the life of a believer that is spiritually mature. The first three chapters in James drives home the importance of faith in the life of a believer.
Our faith in God should have a direct and profound impact on the many horizontal relationships in our life, most importantly our marriage.
When we get to the fourth chapter the focus shifts from the very practical marks of spiritual maturity to exposing the root of why conflict exists. When we don’t willingly look to God by faith to love and forgive the way the Lord loves and forgives us, we don’t live in peace, but rather our relationship seems to be more of a bother. Troubles abound while we attempt to wrangle things in with our own strength only making things worse.
James writes to the Jewish believers and addresses the relational dysfunction that exists:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:1-3
Don't Be Deceived
We deceive ourselves when we think that we can be spiritually mature, but not be thriving in our marriage relationship, or any other primary relationship. (James 1:26) We need to examine our hearts to expose the root of the conflict that causes our marriage to spiral downward towards resentment and rebellion.
We want our spouse to act a certain way towards us or towards the kids and when they don’t, we get visibly upset. We want them to do their part. When they don’t, we lose it - really lose it - because after all we’ve only said it 100 times. Our anger is justified. But is it?
Because we come from differing backgrounds, we approach life differently. When our spouse doesn’t navigate things the way we do, we either press in by attacking and invalidating their emotions or we distance ourselves.
The list could go on and on that outlines the types of conflict married couples’ experience. These conflicts can take them down the path of feeling like their life is horrible and it’s their spouse’s fault. These types of unhealthy interactions become a slippery slope to major dissatisfaction in marriage with no hope of transformation.
Here are few warning signs that the conflict in your marriage is unhealthy:
- Disengaged- the absence of or inability to have any positive interaction with your spouse
- Control- there is an overly dominant spouse
- Neglect- when couples fail to provide the most basic attention or care to one another in every aspect of marriage spiritually, emotionally, and physically
- Mistreatment- The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Mistreatment is when our anger fails to see our spouse as an image bearer of God, and we attack them in many ways in hopes of change. This only works against you.
- Abuse-This is a very real issue in marriages today. Abuse takes on many forms and is not limited to physical abuse. Certain types of abuse can be difficult for couples to admit. Seek help immediately.
We pray that you can identify the patterns of a performance-based relationship and through God’s Holy Spirit begin to cultivate a FAITH-based marriage.