conflict Posts

Navigating Conflict

You will fight when you get married. I hate to disappoint you, but it’s inevitable. It may not happen on your wedding day, but when conflict happens – not if, but when – it can either be really healthy or really miserable, depending on whether you’ve learned how to handle it.

Sinning in Anger

Have you ever found yourself instantly reacting, motivated by anger and pride? You launch out in a tirade, and after a while you start looking around and go, how did I get here?

It’s hard to be angry and not sin.[1] It’s an easy verse to quote, but it’s very difficult to live. Once you sin, the issue becomes you and not the conflict situation. And once you say something, you’ve said it. You can apologize from now ‘til Jesus comes. You can crawl for miles on your hands and knees through busted glass as penance for what you said, and your spouse can even forgive you for it. But once you’ve blown up on your spouse, there is shrapnel and scar tissue there from words that were spoken in anger.

Very seldom, if ever in my life, have I said something in anger, and then looked back on it and thought, Wow, that was really good. God must be really pleased with me for what I just said. Because “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood.”[2] James says to be slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to become angry, because the anger of man doesn’t accomplish the righteousness of God.[3]

And what do we expect? Do you think you’re going to raise your voice, bow up at your wife and she’ll go, “My bad. When you clenched your jaw like that and raised your voice, I realized you were right.” It’s not going to happen like that. Proverbs tells us, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”[4]

Losing Perspective

Another problem with reacting is you lose perspective. When you react, the language often turns to unhealthy, polarizing language that becomes accusatory. “You always!” “You never!” “You do this every time!” The natural reaction when someone is attacked is to get defensive, and at that point, it’s on. You’re in battle mode.

But marriage isn’t about pushing that woman or that man to the degree where they’re looking around waiting to get sucker punched. That’s not the oneness God intended in a marriage.

Force Meets Force

If you begin to attack your spouse, you may find yourself besieging them like you’re trying to sack a city, because a “brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”[5] Force is met with force.

What is my natural tendency when the flashpoint comes and she raises her voice? I raise my voice. She takes a shot, so I’m going to take a better one. She comes at me and manipulates, and I confront and isolate. It’s back and forth, like trench warfare in World War I. She’ll show her head and I’ll take a shot. I show mine and she takes a shot. That’s not healthy. That’s not what God designed.

There is another way.

Learning to Respond

I don’t know about you, but my sin nature really wants to be right. I want conflict to be her fault, not my fault. Never my fault. But with humility, I’ve got to learn to respond, not have to be right. Bottom line: Win the fight, lose your marriage. The goal isn’t to be right. The goal is to be one.

Instead of reacting and trying to be right, we have to learn how to respond. It’s a learned trait. To respond is to be driven by the Spirit. It’s seeing the flashpoint of conflict, and instead of your flesh driving you and letting things blow up, you ask the Lord for help to slow it down and live like He wants you to live. As soon as you defer to the Spirit of God, the fruit of the Spirit begins to show. When you allow the Spirit of God to lead in conflict, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control[6] come out.

I have never had a fight with my wife that continued to escalate because I was peaceful or gracious or loving or kind. When I allow God to live through me in my conflict with my wife, it’s like immediately pouring water on the flame.

Conflict can be a good thing, if handled well. Without it, you’ll never know about forgiveness or appreciate grace the way you will when you work through it with your spouse. If you never conflict, you’ll never know the kind of love that deepens a marriage to a level it could never reach otherwise.

[1] See Ephesians 4:26-27
[2] Proverbs 27:4 (NASB)
[3] See James 1:19-20
[4] Proverbs 12:18 (NASB)
[5] Proverbs 18:19 (NASB)
[6] See Galatians 5:22-23

How One Word Can Change Everything

The hardest thing about marriage: you thought you were marrying a spouse who would be there to meet your needs – but really, you were marrying a spouse whose needs you were going to have to meet.

And it’s one of the biggest disappointments people have.

Dudes think, great, I’m going to marry this gal and she’s going to cook for me and clean for me and break out the gifts from her lingerie shower. I’m now married and it’s awesome. But she’s not going to cook the way you wish she would. And she’s probably not going to clean the house as much as you would like. And she’s probably going to put on the don’t-you-dare-touch-me pajamas with a double knot – and that’s marriage.

The divorce rate is what it is because people are so narcissistic and self-centered that they think it’s all about them getting their needs met. It’s just not working out. I’m just not happy. So I’m going to divorce.

Who told you the goal of marriage was for you to be happy? How selfish are you? You can create this narcissistic expectation of marriage and the whole thing falls apart because you realize you were completely wrong.

So what do you do with that?

The longer you’re married, you should begin to see that your husband or your wife is there so that you take initiative into his or her life to help them to be all that God created them to be.

And what makes a marriage fantastic is when you can say to your spouse, I’m sorry. I’ve been so selfish. It’s been all about me. Will you forgive me? And they do. When forgiveness or apologies are reciprocated with grace and forgiveness or restoration, that’s what makes a marriage fantastic.

My marriage with my wife is awesome. Not because we never fight. It’s awesome because when she realizes that she’s being selfish and apologizes, or when I realize that I’m being selfish and apologize, there’s a guarantee of restoration.

The challenge is to take the first step. I know if he or she would apologize first that would make it easier for you. If they would, then I would… But there you are trying to control or manipulate the situation. How about you humble yourself and you be willing to enter in with your spouse and say the hardest thing you’ll ever have to say in in your marriage: I’m sorry. I apologize. I did this. I own my part.

Song of Solomon Chapter 5

It’s a classic story of conflict because it comes right after the honeymoon. The couple just had sex and it’s as graphic as you can get. I can’t even teach it the way it should be taught because people would freak out. And the very first thing that happens after incredible intimacy is they fight.

He comes to the door. He’s locked out. She’s says, I’ve already taken off my dress. How can I put it on again? I’ve already washed my feet. How can I dirty them again? Meaning, not tonight, I have a headache.

So the guy, instead of yelling at her or breaking in a window, puts liquid myrrh on the door handle and goes away.

Earlier she had said, he is like a pouch of myrrh that lied all night between her breasts. Meaning, the thought of him was fragrant to her all the time. She would wake up in the middle of the night and be thinking about him. In our context it would be like a song. For my wife and I, it’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.” That’s our song. We danced to it on our wedding day. And that’s what myrrh was to this woman.

She was dead wrong for what she did, but he didn’t shove her nose in it like a puppy. He responds in love, leaves her to the Lord and goes away. And she pursues reconciliation. Literally, she gets up, searches for him, and finds him. When he sees her coming from afar, she never says a word, and he says, don’t stare at me. You’ve made me dizzy with one glance of your face. Because he knows what she’s saying without opening her mouth. There’s that look a spouse gives that says, oh, I’m so sorry. They know it; you know it.

He snatches her away into his chariot, and it’s the idea of complete restoration.

When conflict comes, if you are the one who knows you have blood on your hands, seek reconciliation. Seek it out immediately. The longer you wait or pause, the more you give an opportunity for a wedge to come into your marriage. Typically there’s wrong on both sides, but if you are waiting for the other person to make the first move, you allow your marriage to decay. If you know you have something to be sorry for, even if it’s only 10 percent, hold a mirror up to your spouse and say, I’m sorry. I’m doing my part. Your spouse will look in the mirror and either say, no, I will not apologize or be wrecked to say, I’m sorry too.

Sorry from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.