By Dr. Harold Sala
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
No marriage was ever destroyed by conflict, but a multitude of them are destroyed every year by our refusal to resolve conflict. There’s a difference! Conflict in marriage is part of life; it’s the result of two people coming together from different backgrounds and different cultures, bringing with them different habit patterns and attitudes.
No matter how you love someone, no matter how deeply committed to that person you may be, and no matter how fervent you are in your commitment to doing the will of God, you are going to face conflict in marriage!
In spite of the fact that more marriages are failing today than ever before, the fact remains that what is tearing us apart today is the same thing which destroyed families centuries ago. Proof? The pages of the book of Genesis! Read what Moses wrote and see the same problems facing families today–infidelity, a conflict of values, battles over “rights,” jealousy, rivalry between brothers, and dishonesty with each other.
Any couple who are serious about saving a marriage must learn how to resolve issues before they destroy a marriage and a family. Mary Ann Castronovo Fusco, a journalist and mother of two, learned that lesson. She said, “My husband and I have been married for nine years and have lots of arguments. But we love each other, and we’re both committed to our relationship. You have to be willing to work at stability.”
The following are guidelines to resolving conflict which could destroy your marriage. They work if you will work them.
Guideline #1: Try to understand the person with whom you have conflict. This means you don’t scream or yell at the person. You don’t call him names. You mentally cross the room and ask, “How would I view this situation if I were in his shoes?” Psychologists call it role playing. Christians call it The Golden Rule. I call it the first step to a solution which can save your marriage.
Guideline #2: Pray about the conflict that causes you annoyance and irritation. Prayer changes things, right? Wrong! Prayer changes people and people change things. Prayer is a therapy which allows you to vent your anger in a positive way. It also helps you see your own inadequacies and failures. It humbles you as you bow before God and realize you are also human and subject to failure. It plugs you into God’s current. Jesus put it, “…Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).
Guideline #3: Confront the individual with whom you have conflict. We often think of confrontation as being negative. Wrong! It’s positive. It allows an emotional wound to be cleansed and drain, so healing can take place. Choose the time, the manner and the place of confrontation. You are in control. When you confront someone, be positive. Instead of saying, “YOU did this…”, try saying, “This is how I feel when you do this…” Jesus said, “If your brother [or husband, or wife] sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you….” (Matthew 18:15).
Guideline #4: Be quick to forgive. Bitterness is a cancer that destroys you–not the other person. Apply a big dose of Ephesians 4:32 which says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other….”
Guideline #5: Bury the issue, and get on with your life and relationship. There is always risk attached to love, but without love, there can be no future. Resolving conflict only strengthens our marriage. Work at it; it pays big dividends.
Resource reading: James 4:1-10