In the best of marriages, there are strong differences and contentions. The difference between bad and good marriages is conflict resolution.
God made male and female. God ordained marriage. Therefore, it is God who teaches us how to dwell together. Here are several rules He gives for how to “fight fair” when resolving conflict.
Learn How to Listen
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear…” (James 1:19a). Encourage your mate to express themselves, because then you will understand them as an individual. When you come to true understanding, you have an intimate relationship.
Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Make eye contact. Smile and look into your loved one’s face, whether you are having an argument or not.
When the one you love most is talking, give them the courtesy of concentration. You will be amazed by how much you have been missing.
Listen not only to the words, but to what the words mean. Your spouse may get the words confused—in anger or frustration, he or she may exaggerate something, or say it backward. Don’t try to catch your spouse in an error. What are the feelings in what is being said?
Make certain you understand. There is always what we say, and what we think we said. And there is always what we hear, and what we thought we heard.
Watch Your Mouth
There is nothing that can do more damage to your marriage than your words. 1 Corinthians 13 talks about love in the context of the tongue.
Don’t Play Games
Here are some games that unfortunate roles husbands and wives take on when they argue:
The Judge—he or she wants to lay the blame, and the sentence. Are these phrases heard around your house? I told you so. What’s wrong with you?
The Professor—this one assumes the superior position, and likes to put down his or her spouse. But, “Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up…” (1 Corinthians 13:4b).
The Psychologist—this person thinks he or she has insight into why the other person does things. The psychologist is always psycho-analyzing the other person—contrary to the Bible saying that love “does not behave rudely” (1 Corinthians 13:5a).
The Historian—this person has a memory of every argument that’s ever taken place. But love “thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5a). The NASB words it, love “does not keep an account of a wrong suffered.”
The Dictator—this person is a bully, physically, or verbally. Whether husband or wife, the dictator is saying, “I am more important than you are.”
The Critic—this person loves to compare the spouse to other people.
The Preacher—the Bible is a wonderful sword, but a poor club for beating your spouse over the head.
How to Handle Conflict in Marriage
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
You may need to be apart until you are cooled down, but do not run away from an argument. Get it settled, today. (See Ephesians 4:26.) “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
If there is a piece of paper on the carpet and you pick it up the first time you see it, the carpet will stay tidy. But if you allow things to build up, before long, the entire carpet is dirty. Pick up issues one at a time and deal with them.