Married couples will experience conflict. Most marital conflict is because of miscommunication, finances, or physical intimacy. And, let's face it—most of these conflicts are from miscommunication.
Because of sin, conflict shouldn’t surprise us. Conflict will find us. We need to be prepared to handle the challenge of conflict.
If you’re like me, when conflict arises, it’s common to feel out of control and unprepared. The good news is that conflict doesn’t have to ruin our life or our day.
Each of the four habits below apply the gospel to peacemaking in your marriage. These four habits teach us how to practically apply the gospel to situations of conflict. I have used these four principles throughout my ministry and marriage. They are tried and true. They're also meant to be simple, so you'll remember them when conflict comes.
In this step you're asking yourself the question, “How can I focus on God in this situation?”
In the middle of a conflict, God is usually the last person on our minds. Starting with the habit of glorifying God teaches us that He is the one who holds the lasting solutions to our problems. Conflict provides an opportunity to glorify God. The main ways we can glorify God in the midst of conflict are: trusting Him, obeying Him, and imitating Him.
In this step you are asking yourself the question, “How can I own my part of this conflict?”
In times of marriage conflict, we naturally focus on what the other person did to us. But, that never solves the problem. In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus gives us some help with one of the most vivid and images in the Bible. He describes a guy with a log in his eye trying to help a guy with a speck of sawdust in his eye. The instruction is to first remove the log out of your own eye.
Owning your part of a conflict requires imitating Jesus in humility.
It is through humility that we can get over our overly-sensitive attitude. It is through humility that we combat our pride. To resolve marital conflict, we will need to humbly admit our own mistakes and sins to our spouse. And, in humility, we may need to listen to the advice of others for help in resolving the conflict.
When we own up to our contribution to the conflict, we will avoid the following:
- Using the words, “if,” “but,” and “maybe”
- Being general instead of specific
- Avoiding the consequences
- Not altering our behavior
- Not asking for forgiveness (and allowing time for forgiveness to be given)
Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” It’s always better when we look to ourselves and own up to our sins.
You may be thinking something like, "Yes! This is the step I’ve been waiting for!" But be careful, it's not what you think. Step three is not your chance to lay out all of the things your spouse has done wrong.
In this step, you're asking the question, “How can I help others own their contributions to this conflict?” not “How can I make them feel bad for what they’ve done wrong?”
When seeking peace, it’s essential for you to focus on God and own your contribution to the conflict, before helping others own theirs.
Galatians 6:1 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Humble gentleness is the goal in this step. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, so we can only do this when we rely on the power of God’s Spirit within us. This is why the first step of looking to God is so important in conflict. It’s also why step two is important, we can’t begin to address other’s sins unless we’ve already addressed our own.
In this step you’re asking yourself, “How can I give forgiveness and help reach a reasonable solution?”
This step is all about giving forgiveness, asking for forgiveness, and arriving at a reasonable solution together. Unity, as a result of reconciliation, is the goal of this last step.
Grace Marriage Mission
After a hard conversation with your spouse, pray together and for one another.
Nate Williams is the Pastor of Discipleship and Connection at Heartland Church. He and Hannah have been married for 11 years and have two boys and are expecting a girl soon. Read more from Nate on his blog, Deeply Rooted.