Marriage: Conflict Resolution by Kevin Probst
I know many older couples who have been married for fifty or more years. They have learned the secret of staying together. I love to ask them about their long journey through married life. These couples could fill books with advice on how to make a marriage work. One thing they all have in common, they had to learn to deal with conflict.
Several years ago , Ruth Bell Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham, was asked if she and Billy always agreed on everything. ‘My goodness, no!” she said, ‘If we did, there would be no need for one of us.’ Even those marriages that appear to be made in heaven have conflict.
The issues that married couples must cope with today are very serious and sometimes overwhelming but perhaps more important than the issues themselves is how couples choose to voice their disagreements. When they become verbally aggressive, when they swear and hurl insults at each other, when they slam doors and walk out in a huff mumbling something about divorce, they have failed in that area that is most important, communication.
Neil Warren says, “If you want your marriage to crash and burn, let conflict rage but refuse to learn the skills necessary for managing it. Well-managed conflict is like a stairway leading to higher and higher levels of marital excellence.” (1)
Dr. David Powlinson says “cravings underlie conflict. Why do we fight? Its not, ‘because my wife/husband…’ – its because of something about you. Couples who see what rules them – cravings for affection, attention, power vindication, control, comfort, a hassles-free life – can repent and find God’s grace made real to them, and then learn how to make peace.” (2)
This isn’t a new concept, James taught this thousands of years ago: James 4:1-2 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.”
Occasionally I will have conflict with the woman I love most. The passage in James comes running to my rescue. I am a professional persuader. I spend all of my time trying to teach apologetics to students who need to learn to defend their faith. I use my persuasive skills to try to convince people to follow Christ when I preach from the pulpit. My students think I am a wise man. My congregants think I am a spiritual man. My wife…well, I’m just the guy she rides home with. She sees me in all my faults and in all my shortcomings. She has no adulation for the man who reveals so often that he is a clay vessel.
When we have conflict, I am reminded of a perverted need I have to be admired. It is usually my cravings for relaxation, for attention, admiration or affection that causes conflict. It’s what I want that I’m not getting at that particular time.
My five year old son, Kameron, will often go to his room and pout when he doesn’t get what he wants. We are not so unlike small children when we fail to handle conflict.
So, after my wife and I have experienced conflict I will often go to my room and pout. I will fantasize about her coming in and asking for forgiveness because she has failed to recognize how incredible I am as a husband and father. When she doesn’t show up, the Holy Spirit usually does. He shows me the source of the conflict. It’s what I want but don’t have. Then I end up being the one who has to apologize, again!
The solution to solving conflict is spelled out in James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” When I am in conflict with my wife, God is in conflict with me. It’s much easier to resolve my conflict with my wife when I first resolve my conflict with God. If we humble ourselves and repent he is faithful and just to forgive us. (1 John 1:9)
Our honest and humble confession is effective because the Son of God resolved the greatest conflict of man; that which existed between a Holy God and sinful man. That conflict has been dealt with and it is settled forever. Christ went to the cross, he rose from the grave, he sacrificed himself for our salvation and in so doing he takes the hand of sinful man and joins him to a holy God.
Resolve conflict by recognizing what cravings you have that are not being satisfied. Offer a genuine, sincere, brief, specific apology. Make sure Christ is centered in your relationship.
1. Battlefields and Playgrounds – Neil Warren
2. Seeing With New Eyes – Dr. David Powlinson
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.