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Embracing Conflict: Why Fighting Isn't Always a Sign of Trouble in Relationships

Early in my marriage, every conflict with my husband left me feeling traumatized. I feared that each disagreement signaled the unraveling of our relationship. I had never learned how to resolve conflicts amicably, and I mistakenly believed that conflict itself was a sign of trouble in our marriage. Little did I know, it was the failure to address and resolve conflicts effectively that posed a true threat to our marital bliss. Before diving into the principles of fair fighting in marriage, it's crucial to recognize the reality that conflict is an inevitable aspect of any relationship. Just as James 1:2–4 teaches us to embrace trials as opportunities for growth, conflicts in marriage can serve as catalysts for deeper understanding and intimacy. The way we address and resolve conflicts, not their presence, poses a threat to a marriage.

Healthy conflict resolution:

Ephesians 4:26–27 advises against letting anger fester unresolved. This wisdom underscores the importance of addressing conflicts promptly and constructively. When we allow conflicts to linger unresolved, we open the door to bitterness and resentment, which can corrode the foundation of our relationships. Prompt resolution of conflicts is essential for several reasons.

Firstly, unresolved conflicts tend to linger like unattended wounds, festering beneath the surface and breeding resentment. Allowing conflicts to fester can corrode the foundation of our relationships, eroding trust and intimacy over time, just as an untreated wound can become infected and spread. If you are guilty of allowing conflicts to linger unresolved, then this is a signal that it is time to resolve them. It is not only unhealthy for the relationship, but it also affects your health.

Furthermore, prompt resolution demonstrates a commitment to the health and longevity of the relationship. Promptly addressing conflicts fosters mutual respect and understanding by demonstrating our value for our partner's feelings and concerns. Conversely, failure to address conflicts can send the message that our partner's emotions are insignificant, leading to feelings of neglect and isolation.

When conflicts arise, it's natural to experience a range of emotions, including anger, frustration and hurt. However, how we choose to express and resolve these emotions can make all the difference in the outcome of the conflict.

Approaching conflicts with empathy, active listening, and a willingness to compromise lays the groundwork for productive dialogue and resolution. Ephesians 4:15 encourages us to speak truthfully but with love. This scripture emphasizes the importance of expressing our feelings respectfully and constructively.

Moreover, focusing on finding solutions rather than dwelling on grievances allows us to move past conflicts and strengthen our bond with our partners. If conflicts are unavoidable, we need to establish rules to ensure fair fighting instead of unresolved conflicts. Here are some rules to remember the next time you and your spouse have a conflict.

Rules for Fighting Fair:

Maintain Respect: Proverbs 15:1 serves as a poignant reminder of the power of gentle words to defuse anger and de-escalate conflicts. In the heat of the moment, when emotions run high and tensions mount, there is a natural temptation to lash out and say hurtful things to our spouse. However, true maturity and wisdom lie in exercising restraint and minding our words carefully.

It's easy to let our emotions control our speech during conflicts. However, Christ calls us to a higher standard of conduct. Colossians 4:6 encourages us to "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." This admonition reminds us that even amid conflict, we should be mindful of the words we say.

Approaching conflicts with respect and empathy can prevent disagreements from escalating into hurtful confrontations. Instead of reacting impulsively out of anger or frustration, take a moment to pause and consider the impact of your words. Ask yourself if what you are about to say is edifying and constructive, or if it will only serve to inflict further pain and damage.

Viewing our spouse through the lens of Christ's sacrificial love compels us to act and speak with kindness and respect, even in the face of disagreement.

Listen with Empathy: In the intricate dance of conflict resolution, listening plays a pivotal role in fostering understanding and reconciliation. James 1:19 serves as a gentle yet powerful reminder of the importance of attentive listening amid conflict. Tensions and high emotions often overshadow the crucial act of truly listening to our partner's perspective.

Empathetic listening goes beyond simply hearing the words spoken; it involves actively seeking to understand the underlying emotions, needs, and concerns driving our partner's point of view. Instead of rushing to defend our position or refute their arguments, empathetic listening invites us to step into their shoes and see the world through their eyes.

By empathetically listening to our partner's perspective, we lay the groundwork for constructive dialogue and resolution. Proverbs 18:13 reminds us that "to answer before listening—that is folly and shame." When we approach conflicts with humility and a genuine desire to understand, we create a safe space for open and honest communication, paving the way for mutual understanding and compromise.

Empathetic listening also fosters empathy and compassion within the relationship, strengthening the bond between partners. Through attentive listening, we validate our partner's feelings and experiences, demonstrating our commitment to their emotional well-being and deepening our connection with them.

Furthermore, empathetic listening allows us to uncover the underlying needs and concerns driving the conflict, making it easier to find mutually beneficial solutions. By empathizing with our partner's perspective, we can identify common ground and work together towards resolution, rather than perpetuating a cycle of misunderstanding and conflict.

Express your feelings constructively. 

Ephesians 4:15 offers profound guidance on communication within relationships, emphasizing the importance of speaking truthfully but with love. In my journey, I've learned firsthand the power of this principle in navigating conflicts with my spouse. There have been times when disagreements arose, and in the heat of the moment, I felt compelled to speak my mind without regard for how my words might impact my partner. However, as my understanding of Ephesians 4:15 has deepened, I've realized that kindness and compassion must always temper honesty.

Using "I" statements has been a game-changer in our communication dynamics. Instead of placing blame or pointing fingers, expressing our feelings using "I" statements allows us to take ownership of our emotions and vulnerabilities. For example, instead of saying, "You never listen to me," I might say, "I feel unheard when my opinions are dismissed." This subtle shift in language fosters openness and vulnerability, creating a safe space for honest dialogue and mutual understanding.

Focus on collaborative solutions.

Philippians 2:4 challenges us to consider the needs of others in conflict, encouraging a spirit of collaboration and empathy. In our marriage, this principle has been instrumental in guiding our approach to conflict resolution. We strive to approach conflicts as opportunities for growth and mutual understanding, rather than viewing them as battles to win or lose.

One memorable instance stands out when we faced a significant disagreement regarding our financial priorities. Instead of digging in our heels and defending our respective positions, we heeded the wisdom of Philippians 2:4 and embarked on a journey of collaborative problem-solving. We set aside time to discuss our individual needs and concerns, actively listening to each other's perspectives without judgment or defensiveness. For more on how I navigated my relationship struggles, pick up a copy of my book, Marriage of a Lifetime: 25 Lessons in 25 Years.

Through this process, we were able to uncover common ground and identify creative solutions that addressed both of our needs. By shifting the focus from winning to preserving the health and harmony of our relationship, we were able to navigate the conflict with grace and humility, emerging stronger and more united than before.

These principles work. As we apply these principles in our daily interactions, we can cultivate a culture of mutual respect, understanding, and love, enriching our relationships and deepening our bond with our partners. 

Be rest assured conflict is not a sign of a failing marriage but rather an opportunity for growth and deeper connection. By embracing conflict as a natural part of our journey together and applying biblical principles of fair fighting, we can transform conflicts into opportunities for strengthening our bond and fostering greater intimacy. If you find yourself struggling to navigate conflicts in your marriage, consider seeking guidance from a trained professional who can provide the tools and support you need to resolve conflicts amicably and preserve the health of your relationship.




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