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By Dr. Harold Sala

Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.  Luke 11:17

“You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate!” is the caption of a magazine advertisement.  The fact is, however, that statement is absolutely true. What you deserve and what you get are totally different.

In business, skillful negotiations can result in decided advantages for your company.  But what about marriage when you really love the person with whom there is disagreement, or in a family which is threatened by conflict?  Is there a place for negotiation in situations like these?

The reality is that without negotiation and compromise–which some consider a weakness–a relationship becomes hard and rigid.  A wife was bemoaning that fact when she said, “Before we were married, he was Mr. Right, and since we got married, he is Mr. Always Right.”  Another man put it, “We have a give and take relationship; I always give and she always takes!”

No marriage or relationship is so perfect that disagreements don’t take place.

The difference between marriage and business is that marriage negotiation should never be done with the attitude of “How can I gain an advantage over the one with whom I have a disagreement?”  Rather it should be approached with the attitude that says, “I recognize we have a fundamental area of disagreement.  Now, what can be done to resolve this issue?”

No marriage or relationship is so perfect that disagreements don’t take place.  The refusal to negotiate produces unresolved conflict, and conflict produces division.  And in marriage, division produces broken homes.  Jesus said, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17).  Insight:  Conflict that is unresolved only grows deeper and more devastating in its consequences.

How can issues be negotiated, utilizing biblical principles?

Guideline #1:  Examine your own motives.

What point do you have to prove?  It’s right here that some men have to take a step back from the issue and ask, “What’s my motive?”  At times, men are more logical than women, who are better able to express their thoughts and win arguments, but lose the war.  Insight:  Winning the argument isn’t the goal.  Resolving the conflict is.

Guideline #2:  Pray together, openly recognizing that you face disagreement.

Your willingness to do this submits your disagreement to God, who is the ultimate judge of what we do.

Guideline #3:  Put yourself in the shoes of your mate or the one with whom you disagree.

Jesus said it long ago:  “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Guideline #4:  Be willing to compromise.

In his newsletter, “Wheat and Chaff,” Ron Kelleher says, “There will be times when someone is clearly right and another wrong.  But more often there will be shades of gray where there is some “rightness” on both sides.  When this is the case it is important to come to a negotiated resolution.  Both sides need to agree on the outcome.  In cases where someone has been emotionally hurt there needs to be confession and forgiveness.”

Guideline #5:  Once you’ve negotiated a solution, consider the issue settled.

Scores of people never fully deal with issues, and subsequently the same issue, the same conflict, keeps coming to the surface.  At times, being unwilling to forgive and forget, we “gunnysack” our grievance and periodically bring it out to hurt the other person.  Insight: God’s forgiveness should be a pattern for us to follow.  Once an issue has been negotiated and resolved, consider it forever settled.  Negotiation is part of learning to resolve conflict.  Use it wisely.

Resource reading: Luke 11:14-28.