Want Marital Bliss? Embrace Conflict
We both sat stiffly, staring at our fried chicken, and refusing to make eye contact. All around us laughter, conversations, and live music buzzed but stanch silence sat at our table.
Every time our waiter came by to refill our water, I blushed with embarrassment, eyes still locked on my chicken. There was no hiding it—our date was an utter disaster. I was mad. He was mad. Both of us were hurt and frustrated.
David and I had spent the first 45 minutes at Max’s Wine Dive arguing and the last 15 in complete silence. It sucked. And it reminded me how much I hate conflict.
Our disastrous date also reminded me that healthy conflict can be a great opportunity for growth.
The truth is, we cannot run from conflict. It’s inevitable. But maybe it’s not something we need to be running from in the first place.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Conflict may be uncomfortable, but it is not always bad. When handled in a healthy way, conflict is a great opportunity to refine ideas, develop character, broaden perspectives, and strengthen relationships.
When iron sharpens iron, sparks fly. And that’s okay.
Usually when David and I get to the other side of a conflict, our relationship is actually stronger. Our decisions are usually much wiser than they would be if one of us came to a conclusion in isolation, sans conflict.
When I view conflict as an opportunity for maturation and growth, it doesn’t seem so terrible. Changing my mindset, has allowed me to lean into the tension, rather than run away. The less conflict becomes something I am afraid of, the easier I am able to handle it in a healthy way.
Running from conflict has caused more problems in my life than I’d like to admit.
For example, because it makes me uncomfortable, I’m often tempted to work through conflict by “venting” or “processing” with friends who are not directly involved in the disagreement. There could not be a more unbiblical way to handle things.
Matthew 18:15 reminds us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”
Learning to correct my behavior in this area has been critical for our marriage.
Nothing kills oneness quicker than gossiping to your mom or your sister about your husband’s bonehead decision. (I mean… apparently… not like I’ve done that or anything…)
My role as David’s wife is to love him, encourage him, and represent him well, especially when we are in conflict. My loyalty to him does not get to take a vacation when I am frustrated or angry.
It is not easy, but when David and I can to push through our own selfish emotions to put each other first—even during conflict—our relationship is blessed tremendously. David can make me feel incredibly loved even when we are “in the heat of battle,” by the way he prioritizes our relationship and leads humbly. When he is intentional about bringing up an issue directly with me and thoughtful about timing and phrasing, I feel cared for. The conversation is still difficult, but I know it is girded with love.
Please hear me say this: the only way we’ve learned how important humility is in conflict resolution is because we’ve been selfish. Too many times we’ve hurt each other by avoiding conflict or failing to consider one another’s feelings.
Another great benefit of realizing conflict is not bad—or even embarrassing—is that it gives you and your spouse the freedom to widen the circle when necessary.
“But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Matthew 18:16
Scripture advises seeking wise counsel when a conflict is not being resolved one-on-one. A few times in our relationship, David and I have come to a place where we were unable to reach an agreement on our own without hurting each other.
Rather than allowing frustration to fester, we’ve been quick to bring our issues up with mentors or community. We are grateful to have loving friends whom we trust enough to speak into our lives when we can’t see straight in a conflict. An outside perspective (informed by Scripture) always allows us to view our disagreement in a clearer, healthier way.
Working through conflict at Max’s Wine Dive was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and difficult. Even so, I’m grateful to have a spouse committed to embrace conflict selflessly in an effort to refine and protect our marriage.
That night, while David grumpily signed the check for our overpriced KFC, the soloist in the corner broke out into a lovely rendition of “Let It Go” from Frozen. We must have both flashed back to goofy, out-of-tune sing-a-longs in our kitchen, because we giggled at each other and walked out holding hands. Later than night we finished our conversation, and today we feel unified and great about the issue.
I’m grateful for our growing friendship, one God is continuing to refine and grow—sometimes through karaoke in the kitchen and other times through arguments over fried chicken.
What tips do you have for embracing conflict and resolving it well?
Photo credit goes to the fabulous Carrisa Uribe with Dulce Photography.