Auntie Em's Guide to Life

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Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

What causes quarrels and 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. James 4:1-2a

No matter how much you love your spouse, or how compatible you are, you will have conflict in your marriage. Don’t expect it not to pop in for a visit. The goal is to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way, one that draws you closer together and closer to God. The Bible is full of instruction to help!

Speaking the truth in love; we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ. Ephesians 4:15

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… James 1:19

How do you and your spouse handle conflict? I’ll be honest here; Mr X and I did not handle it well for most of our marriage. He never saw it or saw it dealt with in his home. I saw it, and it was not handled well; my dad spoke harshly and my mom quit talking. They ended up divorcing after 35 years of marriage. I learned that problems not talked about do not go away; they just get bigger and nastier. I didn’t want any elephants living in my house, so I was determined to talk everything out! However, Mr X could not be convinced to reciprocate. Finally, God got hold of him and now he will ask, “Is there anything we need to talk about?”

Our Art of Marriage seminar has a chapter on conflict and communication that has some wonderful guidelines:

First, talk to God. Figure out why you are upset. Most of the time, we feel like our rights have been violated or our expectations haven’t been met. Maybe our spouse has said or done unkind things. Maybe he or she HASN”T done what you think needed doing. To resolve the conflict in a healthy, Godly way, the goal must not be I WIN, but the MARRIAGE wins. You must both be committed to oneness.

If either of you has an anger or temper problem, remember these tips:

  • Step back until you get yourself under control. Tell your spouse what you are doing and ask them to pray for you. If you think it might take an hour, let them know that. Remind them that you love them and your anger is YOUR problem, not their fault.
  • While in “time-out,” breathe deeply and slowly. This will lower your pulse and blood pressure, and stop some of the physical effects of anger, which will help you think clearly. Pray about the situation and calm down.
  • When you get back into conversation with your spouse, speak softly. A soft answer turns away wrath. Proverbs 15:1 Remind yourself and your spouse that you can find a win-win resolution.
  • Make sure your body language speaks love and respect: Look each other in the eye. Don’t cross your arms or clench your fists.
  • Watch your language. Escalating words: never, always, can’t, won’t, don’t, shouldn’t, and YOU statements. De-escalating words: Maybe, sometimes, what if, it seems like, and I statements.
  • Ask questions. Don’t assume motives behind actions or statements. (You said “xyz” so “you hate me,” when it might be “you had a headache.”)

Some conflicts in marriage aren’t worth a fight. Let them go. Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 But if something is hurting your relationship, it needs to be dealt with. When preparing to confront, remember these tips:

  • Examine your heart and your motives. Get any logs out of your eye before you address the speck in your spouse’s eye. Matthew 7:4
  • Pray for the situation, your spouse, and your marriage. Ask for wisdom in dealing with the problem.
  • Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and choose your words carefully. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
  • Choose your timing wisely.
  • Sometimes writing a letter is a good way to handle a difficult situation.
  • ALWAYS keep in the forefront of your mind that restoring oneness is the goal.

(Adapted from The Art of Marriage  couple’s manual, page 86; FamilyLife Publishing)

What have you learned about handling conflict in your marriage?

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Three Little Changes

Every Monday in September I have taken part in the “Revive Your Marriage” link-up with To Love, Honor, and Vacuum, The Unveiled Wife, The Time Warp Wife, and Women Living Well. It’s been good! Writing a post makes you think a little more intentionally than you normally would, ask questions, start conversations. So it’s been good for my marriage. I hope yours has had a revival too!

I think it was quite appropriate that the ladies chose the “Sex Life” post for last, because as women, that can be the most challenging one for us, but it is every bit as important as the others. I’ve discovered the Trinity in marriage: God, husband, wife. There’s also a Trinity in a marital relationship: Emotional, spiritual, physical. I’m all about the emotional part, baby! But to be healthy, a marriage has to have a solid base of ALL THREE parts. I would venture to say that most marriages that I know are teetering on 1 or 2 legs. After we have gotten our prayers, our attitudes, our friendship, and praise revived, our love life will be ripe for revival too.

I’ve thought a lot about this post, in part because I don’t write anonymously and my kids read it! So (although I’m sure they will still be blushing if they read it) I’ll let some other very wise friends help me out. I’ve come up with 3 changes to make:

Change your mind: Read up about married sex. (Who knew there were many Christian marriage blogs?)

  • Start with the Song of Solomon. Married people should have the best love lives of anyone (And according to Sheila’s statistics, they do.)
  • Read about The Gospel in the Bedroom.
  • Read Ephesians 5 (No sexual immorality; mutual submission and servant love; unity within marriage)
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13 to see about Biblical love
  • Have you ever noticed all the warnings about sexual temptaion for men in the Bible? Obviously it’s a huge issue for them. Wives need to be aware of it, and sadly, it’s seldom discussed at church or in your Sunday School class. Study up. Huz at Square 1 Ministries gives a man’s perspective of why sex is so important.
  • I’ve got to add a caveat, in our day of streaming video and sexualized EVERYTHING. Porn is becoming more and more mainstream and normalized. (50 Shades of Gray and “Magic Mike” are 2 examples of new marketing to women.) It’s dangerous. Research is emerging, even from non-Christian sources, that exposes it as the poison that it is. It is as brain-changing and addicting as any chemical. Steer away from it, and put safeguards on your computer and in your home for your husband and children.

Change your clothes!

  • Lose the shapeless flannel. (Watch Sheila’s hysterical video of “How to Turn Your Husband Off.”)
  • Ask him what color he likes, or what he’d like you to wear. (Daywear, when you will be with him, as well as night wear!)
  • Get something new. They have inexpensive lingerie at Walmart and Cato. (And tell him ahead of time! The anticipation will make him happy.)
  • In the same vein, do your face and hair even if you’re not leaving the house, and only he will see you. Make sure he knows that HE is your “audience” whose opinion you value most highly!

Change your ways.

  • Plan time in your day for your husband. Don’t give everything you have at work, and to the children, so that there’s nothing left for him. Yes, there will be seasons where a sick child, or a Spring concert take center stage for a bit, but God says your husband is your highest earthly relationship. We get this one wrong far too often. (Personal experience talking.)
  • Discover ways to flirt with him. Text him and tell him you’re thinking about him. Send him a picture of your smiling face and say “I’m happy because you’ll be home soon” or something like that. (Remember, don’t ever put *anything* on the internet or through the air that would make you have to change your state of residence!)
  • Plan a date, and give him hints but keep it secret. I planned a weekend in Houston in the summer– he knew only that we were going away overnight and he needed his camera. I programmed addresses of photo ops, the hotel, and the restaurant into the GPS, (I also got his sister and her husband to come meet us.) and he just drove. He kept saying he couldn’t believe I had done all that planning. He was thrilled!

A committed Christian marriage has to be the best relationship there is on earth. It’s the foundation for great relationships with your kids. It’s the launching pad you and your husband need to be confident in your jobs. It’s the safe haven you come home to, and can count on when you are at your weakest. It’s where you find, and give, grace, because you know that each of you has been forgiven and made new.

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