When embarking on the journey of marriage, we often underestimate the impact of differences that will gradually emerge. Despite the fact that “opposites attract,” those traits that we initially found endearing in our spouses can transform into catalysts for conflict. For example, one day, you might find that the fiancé who enjoyed regularly lavishing you with special gifts now has difficulty following a financial plan as your spouse. This scenario is just one among many that highlight the inevitability of conflict in marriage.
As followers of Christ, we are called to approach conflict with a spirit of love, understanding, and resolution. In the sacred union of marriage, the convergence of two distinct individuals with differing opinions and perspectives is inevitable. Beyond mere differences, our inherent flaws shape how we perceive and respond to situations, often through a lens that might be somewhat distorted. So, since we know that conflict in our marriages is unavoidable, we must realize these critical points:
- Healthy marriages will experience healthy conflict.
- Conversely, unhealthy marriages are marked by unhealthy conflict.
“Peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ.”
~ Sheila Walsh
In this lesson, we are going to examine what happens if conflict goes unresolved and how to
approach conflict in a healthy, God-honoring way.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
~Ephesians 4:26 (ESV)
The Repercussions of Unresolved Conflict
Living with unresolved conflict inflicts a deep wound on the fabric of our marriages, as it does not simply dissipate with time; instead, it festers beneath the surface, hidden from view. It may lead to the creation of:
- False narratives: Our minds tend to concoct various scenarios. Termed “filling in the blanks for your spouse,” this mental process often culminates in the creation of false perceptions and, consequently, the formulation of incorrect conclusions.
- Exaggeration of emotions: As our minds weave narratives in response to imagined scenarios, our emotions become entwined with these stories. Gradually, these emotions overflow, giving rise to feelings of disappointment, resentment, or anger. The repercussions extend beyond internal turmoil, influencing our everyday communication within the marriage.
- Prolonged resolution: Avoiding conflict inadvertently prolongs the resolution process, creating a situation that lingers longer than necessary. By sidestepping open dialogue, we unintentionally evade the path to resolution.
- Increased risk of deep hurt: As conflict persists without resolution, the likelihood of inflicting profound emotional wounds on each other intensifies. The delayed resolution exacerbates the situation because, when the conversation eventually unfolds, a surge of pent-up emotions surfaces. In this highly charged emotional state, words are spoken that carry a weight that is difficult to retract.
- Difficulty in overcoming conflicts: Clearly, addressing conflict at the earliest opportunity yields optimal results. In the words of Dr. Parrott, “When hurt and pain extend beyond the initial conflict, this season will be much more difficult to overcome.”
This unresolved tension becomes a silent force that undermines the core of the marital relationship. Acknowledging the inevitability of conflict within our marriages, let’s now explore practical steps to address and resolve these challenges to promote health and growth within the relationship.
Keys to Resolving Marital Conflict
- PRAY First:
Begin the conflict resolution process with prayer, acknowledging God’s sovereignty over your lives. Seek His guidance and wisdom to bring resolution and restore trust in your relationship. “For where two or three gather in My name, there I am with them.” ~Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
- Pursue PEACE:
The purpose of healthy conflict is resolution, not winning an argument. Live peaceably with your spouse, recognizing the importance of seeking answers and solutions. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” ~Romans 12:18 (ESV)
- SPEAK with honor, love, and respect:
Choose words carefully, maintaining a gentle tone even in moments of disagreement. Healthy conflict resolution involves avoiding raised voices, insults, and name-calling. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)
- LISTEN to your spouse without interrupting:
Practice active listening with empathy, understanding your spouse’s perspective and emotions. Take the time needed to resolve conflicts, emphasizing the importance of a patient and generous approach. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” ~James 1:19 (NIV)
- ASK and GRANT forgiveness quickly:
Verbalize apologies and requests for forgiveness promptly, recognizing the power of forgiveness in resolving conflicts. “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” ~Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)
The marital relationship stands as the most intimate bond we will ever experience. Within this intimacy lies the potent ability to inflict emotional wounds on each other in ways unparalleled by any other connection. That’s why giving and receiving forgiveness is so important.
Without forgiveness, achieving true conflict resolution is impossible. Authentic forgiveness, as exemplified by the biblical principle in Ephesians 4:32, urges us to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving toward one another, mirroring the forgiveness extended to us by God through Christ. For more information, visit our website at Dream City Church or learn more about our DREAMarriage Ministry.
DREAMarriage is a ministry called by God to encourage, equip, and empower husbands and wives to enjoy an abundance of true love found only in the sacred marriage covenant.