As you read this, I will have been blessed to have officiated the first of three weddings for this year. Kerry and I have journeyed with this couple since January spending time with them and counseling them as they prepare for their marriage and life together as husband and wife. We are blessed to be able to do Pre-Marriage Counseling as Husband/Wife and to also be a first hand witness to the genesis of each of these relationships-from courtship to becoming one as husband and wife.
During the 12 week journey with each couple, the primary focus of discussion usually turns to conflict in their relationship and how to deal with it in a Biblical manner. Kerry and I tell each couple that Biblical Conflict is good and necessary to grow in their marriage; however, we so often are not taught what this looks like nor how to fight fair. One of my favorite Joeisms is to say, “If everyday were sunshine, you would have a desert. Storms bring growth and new life; however, you need to know how to prune and manage that growth so it will not overrun your marriage.” The need of effective communication thus in turn leads to how well your conflict is dealt with and what growth comes from it: nurturing or destructive.
Gary Thomas wrote a book, The Sacred Search-A Couple’s Conversation Guide, as a guide for pre-marriage counseling. This has become our primary tool we use with our couples we journey with. In chapter 6 of his book, Constructive Conflict, Gary delves deep into the attitudes and actions we each take as individuals with regards to conflict. I would like to share with you his closing paragraph in that chapter.
When it comes to marital conflict, there are many unhealthy forms of communication—acts that make the conflict worse. Let’s agree to reject all these unhealthy methods of relating:
- Hurtful words. So much harm can be done in so little time if we don’t train our tongues (see James 3:1–12). Name-calling or blasting back with hateful things has never solved a single marital conflict. It has never served the cause of love. It has never fostered intimacy.
- Stonewalling. This is such a harmful and common practice. It’s passive-aggressiveness taken to a malicious level. When you agree to marry someone, you agree ahead of time to work through conflict. Stonewalling (the silent treatment or withdrawal) is essentially renouncing your wedding vows. Some introverted personality types may need a moment to themselves to collect their thoughts and pray, but this is different from refusing to engage with your spouse. It’s putting off resolution indefinitely, and that’s just wrong.
- Bringing up the past. Adopt this mantra: “One conflict at a time.” There is no use trying to bring three previous fights into the current one.
- Acting like you’re above being wrong. In most conflicts, two people are both behaving inappropriately. One might be 95 percent in the wrong, but there is still 5 percent to be owned. Your spouse’s 95 percent doesn’t excuse your 5 percent. Seek to grow, not to win, in every argument. Own that 5 percent.
As said at the beginning, this is a journey that takes time and practice on both individuals and it is not only necessary in a marriage, but in any form of relationships. Praying that we all heed and own James’ teachings in his letter; James 4:1-3. Seek the Lord and His counsel as you then seek forgiveness from God and then from the one you are in conflict with.
In His Grip~