Conflicts are inevitable in our marriages, so it is imperative for us to learn and refine how we resolve them. If you’re like me, you were never really taught or even witnessed conflict resolution that honored God. You see, I can tell you how NOT to resolve conflicts. I can tell you how to be unforgiving. I can show you how to withdraw. I can show you how to become resentful and callous. Effective conflict resolution is not easy, but God is very intentional with reminding us of the importance of pursuing peace with one another. I believe that strong finances are the direct correlation of strong marriages. So the better equipped we are at resolving and working through our marital discords, the better we to talk, plan and win with money. Let’s look to God’s Word and seek His face and make things right when it comes to sinning against our spouses. Navigating, Biblically, through our conflicts is not easy what so ever. These tips I have learned through the fire and hope they encourage and challenge you to solve your conflicts quickly, from the perspectives of the offended and offender, for the glory of God.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men”-Romans 12:18
“Be angry, and yet do not sin”-Ephesians 4:26
“Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.”-Psalm 51:4
“For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more”- Hebrews 8:12
“bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”-Colossians 3:13.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered”-1 Corinthians 13:5
Navigating conflicts from the offended perspective
I want to use this part of the post to empower you to move through your challenges.
Don’t create stories in you head: Let’s keep it real here folks. If you’re like me, you tend to assume the worst about your spouse when an offense occurs. You may say to yourself “they SHOULD know better. They did this on purpose”. We judge and condemn our spouses without just cause. You present all the facts, against your spouse in your head, leaving your spouse to defend themselves. They are guilty until proven innocent. This is just not right.
Choose your reaction: You have your pain but you are never validated in responding to your spouse in way that dishonors God. Just because you are offended/disappointed/disrespected, you are not entitled to retaliate. What does this look like, you ask? Well, raising your voice, using sarcasm, speaking in absolutes, using profanity, walking off, being dismissive and passive aggressive, etc. Listen, I know this is hard, but this requires self-control and self-awareness. You have so much power, even when your spouse sins against you. You get to CHOOSE how to respond. You even, with practice, get to choose to not even be offended by their behavior. It’s also wise to control your negative reaction becuase it will usually “cause” your spouse to respond disrespectfully. Now we are in a full on foolish party that could have been avoided had one person executed self-control. Let’s not escalate fires!
Stay on the topic at hand: According to 1 Corinthians 13:5, we should resist the urge to bring up random topics. Do not bring up past offenses. Why? Besides the fact, the Word encourages us not to, but it is just not fruitful to progress. A disagreement from start to resolution could take 10 minutes, but when you throw in offenses from weeks and days ago, you will be there for hours. If your mission is to restore what happened before the disturbance, forget what happened before and stick to the topic at hand. Besides, let’s follow God’s example as exemplified in Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more”.
Use your words: Stating directly to your spouse of their offense to you should be good enough, however if you can, USE YOUR WORDS and describe how their behavior affected you. Help you spouse to know how their words/actions negatively affected you. Use phrases like “I feel or I felt”. For example, you can say, “when you did BLANK, it “made me feel” disregarded. “When you said BLANK, it made me feel BLANK. Our spouses do not wake up and say, “thank you Lord for this day. What are some ways I can aggravate my spouse today”. Our spouses love us and when they are aware of the magnitude of their offense, that helps them to not repeat those behaviors.
Forgive: Confession: forgiveness is not one of my strengths. Let me know if you can relate: forgiveness to me looks like giving the silent treatment, responding short, disconnecting and cutting you off. #youredeadtome. I know, so not Christlike, but I have to be honest. But then I’m reminded of scriptures like “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”-Colossians 3:13. It takes me some time to move forward, but I’m learning to be open to the journey and process of reconciliation. Give yourself grace for the time it may take you to heal. Remember “trust takes years to build and seconds to break, and forever to repair”.
Bring your pain to God: This post was to help you work through those challenges or serve as a refresher to your resolution. However, unfortunately there may come a time when the apology you want NEVER happens. Or perhaps you feel that you’re not fully understood. Or even that they resolution is just not good enough. So what do you do then? Bring your pain to the Lord! Pray and ask God to intervene. Ask God to protect your heart against bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment that may attempted to take up residence in your heart. He is more sovereignly more qualified to fix the situation.
Navigating conflicts from the offender perspective
Mind your body language: Listen your body language will give you away ev ve ree time. Turn off the television. Shut down the laptop. Put the phone down. No scrolling on the ‘gram or the web. Give eye contact. No crossed arms. It’s not about your wounded spouse trying to control you. It’s about understanding what your disengaged body language communicates to your spouse. It communicates, whether you intended, that your spouse’s frustration or anger is not important. It communicates, this matter is not worth keeping your attention. Give your spouse the respect of an open body language that signals you are present and want to reconcile the conflict.
Active listening: Show up for your spouse when they confront you of the pain or frustration you have caused by actively listening. You are given your undivided attention, out of respect, but more importantly, it allows you to fully grasp what your spouse is saying. Active listening allows you to paraphrase so that you can ensure you truly understand how your spouse feels. You can use phrases like “correct me if I’m wrong.” Or “if I’m hearing you correctly”. You’re basically repeating what you heard so that you have the clarity you need to repair your wounded spouse.
Validate their pain: Validating your spouse’s pain comes as a direct result of active listening and your developed empathy, if it is not a natural emotional intelligence skill. “I understand that my behavior made you feel BLANK and I am sorry” or “You don’t deserve to feel BLANK as a result of my words. I am sorry”. If empathy does not naturally occur for you, the good news is that you can ask God to help you.
The solution: It is important to apologize, take ownership and help rebuild the trust that may have been broken as a result of your words or actions. This is where you come together and create a “how can we move forward” process. This is a collaborative effort, where you communicate with your spouse to uncover what would help restore what was damaged. Your job is to be willing to change and verbalize your action plan that will help reassure your commitment to unintentionally upsetting them again, in that area, to the best of your human ability. I love how Dr. Gary Chapman puts it: “trust is rebuilt when when a person consistently changes their behavior and ceases to violate another’s trust…Others trusting you will follow in time”.
News flash: conflicts will occur in your life and especially in your marriage. You will disappoint your spouse and you will also be on the receiving end of pain. What matters most, is how we move forward after a breach of trust occurs. What do we do once we have been angered. How do we move forward once we are disrespected. It’s not about walking on egg shells and avoiding fights and challenges. It’s about allowing God to work in us maturity, peacemaking, unconditional love, mercy. It’s about giving our spouse the opportunity to right what was wrong. Les Parrot says “in marriage, conflict is the price you pay for a deeper level of intimacy”. Conflicts and how we move forward are a constant reminder of how much sanctification work we have to do, RIGHT?! Thankfully, in Christian marriages, we are apart of a covenant WITH God. Through the power of prayer, and The Holy Spirit ,we have all we need to be peacemakers and givers of peace within our marriage. Lord help us to be agents of mercy and grace just as your lavishly shower us!