Conflict in any relationship will come, naturally because we are sinful and self-centered individuals. It can easily lead to separation and division if handled improperly, but by God’s grace with a little though, preparation, and self-control, it can result in further deepening in your relationship as well as growth in sanctification. My husband and I have experienced the greatest moments of intimacy after resolving a conflict. It is a good work! I have found these insights, gleaned from various sources, to be invaluable in learning how to handle conflict and sin gracefully and peacefully in a marriage.
1. Take it to the Lord first.
Before addressing any problem or area of sin, make sure to come before the Lord with the situation. Seek His wisdom and grace so that you might know how to gracefully address the issue. Often times, when we settle our emotions through prayer, we will realize the superficiality of the situation or receive the strength and grace to present it before our man. Make sure you really dig deep into your heart. Am I doing this out of selfish ambition or selfless love? Pray that your lips would be gracious seasoned with salt and would build up your husband as you speak (Ephesians 4:29).
2. Look to Scripture to affirm who you are in Christ.
Remember that you are loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). That God has made you beautiful and cherishes your role as a wife. Study the passages in Scripture where Jesus showed honor and respect to women to remind yourself of how he cared for our sex (Genesis 3:15 – annihilating defeat of Satan comes through the woman, Matthew 1 – women included in the lineage of Jesus, Luke 7:36-50, Mark 15:40-41, etc). You were created, along with your husband, to rule in this world, to subdue it, to act according to his image (Genesis 1:28).
3. Apply that same value to your man. Value him as God does.
Men and women together mirror the image of God. Together with their own various giftings are able to reflect his character and image. Remember to value your husband as Christ values him when approaching a conflict.
4. Be a sister in Christ.
Remember that you are not merely your husband’s wife, but also his co-laborer in the Lord. We are called to hold each other accountable for pursuing godliness in our lives (Hebrews 3:13). Gary Thomas shares again: “A biblical marriage provides a smaller picture of the church. We should use the position and gifts God has given us ‘so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity of faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:12-13).”
This is a process of sanctification that we should welcome and pursue. Let us have courage in Christ to be willing to confront each other in a godly manner so that we might grow together.
5. Give him time.
According to neurological studies discussed in What Could He Be Thinking? by Micahel Gurian, it has been shown that it may take men up to seven hours longer than women to process complex emotional data. I was astounded to learn this information, but apparently they have a smaller hippocampus in the limbic system (which processes emotional experience), which means that we need to give them warning and room to process a problem.
Gary Thomas makes a powerful suggestion: “If you have a emotional issue that needs to be addressed, why not give your husband a heads-up several hours before you actually have a chance to talk? ‘Honey, something’s really been bugging me [or hurting me, or frustrating me, or worrying me]. Here it is in a nutshell. Can you think it over so that we can talk about it later tonight?’ By using this tactic, you’ll give him plenty of time to process complex emotional data.”
This also gives you time to really thoughtfully prepare how you want to address the issue and help control your varying emotions.
6. Guard against tears.
In For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn asks: “If you are in a conflict with the man in your life, do you think that it is legitimate to break down and cry? Most of us would probably answer yes. Let me ask another question: In that same conflict, do you think it is legitimate for your man to get really angry? Many of us have a problem with that – we think he’s not controlling himself or that he’s behaving improperly.”
The problem is we don’t realize that tears often come across as disrespectful to our husbands which often leads to anger on their part as they feel lack of respect. My tears can make my husband feel like a failure, and that is not the goal nor very helpful for bringing restoration. I think it would be valuable to consider the purpose of our tears before giving way to this emotion. Will they really help the situation? This is why it is really important to take an issue to the Lord first and surrender our desires and come in an attitude of humility and transparency. Pray for grace ahead of time not to cry but speak with self-control.
7. Believe in your man and express it.
Let your man know that you are committed to him, that you are on his side, and that you believe in him. This will help keep the doors open toward positive change and restoration in the relationship. Start with affirmation and expressing a few areas that you appreciate about him before addressing the problem or sin issue. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:13)”
8. Stay by his side.
My greatest temptation is to get up and simply leave the room in a conflict. I want to run from the situation. But restoration can come far more speedily when my husband knows I am willing to stay there until the issue is resolved. Again, I express my commitment to him, when I stay by his side. You may want to hold hands or make sure to face one another through the process. These are simply ways to keep your eyes on each other and focus on achieving peace.
I pray God would give us strength to stay strong in the midst of conflict, and cling ever more to our Savior. For through conflict, we prune back the areas of sin in our lives and help bring further growth in godliness. It is a challenging but fruitful process as long as we maintain humility by God’s grace.
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalms 34:14
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19
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