Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

on October 15, 2012

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?

25 responses to “Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

  1. Kay says:

    Isn’t that the truth? We often realize that we are all wound up over a little thing, while mostly upset about a core issue.

    We have to sit and talk it out. The one time In tried to get some space to calm down, it so greatly upset my husband that I have never been able to leave the house to calm down again. It just felt too much like leaving for him.

  2. Kelly says:

    Such a great post! We’ve learned a lot in our 15 years together. It’s important to know what is not worth arguing about. We’ve definitely learned a lot on that point!!

  3. Following you back from the blog hop! via email subscription under the name Marciakesterdoyle

  4. kimahall says:

    “Restoring oneness is the goal.” Amen to that, Melinda! Admittedly, it can be a difficult goal to keep in mind when in the midst of conflict. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all taught as young brides to print out your card, and stop to refer to it at every stage of a discussion? 🙂

    While I have been blessed with a communicative and thoughtful husband, there was lots of conflict with my youngest. We could have used a referee at times to call a time out. We were talking just last night about how our communication is so much better now (she is almost 25). She noted that she is grateful for that, rather than using her go-to tactic of just walking away from a conversation.

    I learned to be calm, to let so many of the little things go (your multitude of sins comment is dead on the mark here!), to let her hurtful comments roll off my back. The biggest thing, though, was learning to really listen and not try to just be a solver of her problems and her savior. It was a long road, but the relationship we now enjoy has been worth it.

    • Auntie Em says:

      Oh my, Kim, what a wealth of knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained (the hard way lots of times!) Thanks so much for sharing… and aren’t adult children the greatest!!??

  5. Lisa Maria says:

    Hi there…visiting from the GMG link up…I’m your neighbour. Very convicting post…thanks for sharing all these wonderful tips. After 22 years of marriage, I’ve learned some of these the hard way 😦 Thank God for His grace and His wisdom, which have totally transformed our marriage…we’re not quite there yet but…soon!

  6. What a great article! Thanks for linking up with us at the Courtship Connection!

  7. What a beautiful reminder! =) I always have the tendency to “assume” but I should always listen to what my husband is saying and not what my mind is telling me!

    • Auntie Em says:

      Thanks Viviene– it’s hard sometimes, NOT to listen to what our instincts tell us lol; but, as I tell my HS students, BOYS ARE DIFFERENT FROM GIRLS!! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  8. Auntie Em….this was excellent!! Where was this post during the early years of my marriage?? You have carefully laid out such important advice. Thanks so much for linking up over at WholeHearted Home this week.

  9. Excellent post. I don’t have conflict in my marriage. For the most part, my husband and I are easy going and we address conflict when it arises. I don’t have any issues with him, and I don’t believe he has any issues with me (hopefully). We just had a family meeting to discuss a private conversation (partially) between me and him with the children. I don’t want them to feel like they aren’t part of what’s going on. But I don’t assume that we’re good, I ask often and listen to the answer, whether or not I want to hear the truth. It requires me to swallow my pride, but it works.

    • Auntie Em says:

      Thanks, and I’m so glad to see you! I think it ‘s brilliant that you’re teaching your kids how to work things out. Can’t wait to visit your blog!

  10. Rosey says:

    You’re lucky God got a hold of your hubby. 🙂 It makes a world of difference, I’m sure! I’m visiting from the hop, and enjoyed your writing and advice.

  11. Lots of truth here! Conflict is not easy to deal with in any way, but there are better ways to handle it always. Thank you for the tips and for sharing! Blessings!

  12. I’m visiting from the hop and thoroughly enjoyed your article. It was well-written, and I loved the way you referred back to scripture to back up your points. I wish I had been given this advice at the onset of my marriage. 🙂 But by the grace of God, nine years later we’re still here and I’ve had to learn much of what you stated the hard way. My husband always prefers discussing issues and I would rather hide in a book. Not the greatest tactic and I’ve learned to give that up, and I’m learning to talk and listen. I’ve tweeted and shared your post as much as possible. How wonderful if it will help some new wife along the way.

  13. Diane says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post! My Husby said, very early in our marriage that ours was a partnership where God is an equal partner. Thank you for your tender, succinct counsel on NOBH!

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