It all starts out the same. A man and woman fall deeply in love, they start with an irresistible attraction for each other, and then they find they are connected on so many levels of compatibility. They can’t possibly see their love fading or their marriage struggling. But then it happens, their first major fight and they wonder what in the world just happened. Before you know it they’re fighting all the time.
Most marriages start out good with all the love you could possibly want. Then as the stress of life and conflicts over differences set in, something begins to change. Bit by bit they watch a good marriage go bad.
Has this happened to you? Has conflict and stress taken over in your marriage? Has it caused your good marriage to go bad?
Honestly, we know what it is like to have that bubble burst. And anytime we hear some starry eyed couples say they never fight, we think yea just wait, your time is coming. Because we know there is no such thing as a marriage that never has conflict.
What we went through
Our marriage started out with these huge fights that could last for days. And as I said in yesterday’s post, Is Your Behavior Sabotaging Your Marriage?, my anger and uncontrolled words made living with me a nightmare for my family.
Of course, we didn’t fight continuously for those first nineteen years, otherwise we would have never made it that far. We did have our seasons where love and peace ruled in our home. But when stress started moving back in, it would soon turn our marriage into an arena for major battles.
We never knew
What we did not know was, conflict was not our problem. Knowing how to deal with conflict in a healthy way was our problem. If we would have just searched for some answers for what was causing our fights we would have learned conflict is the key to growth. It is the process of two people blending their differences as they work toward oneness in their marriage.
What we could have learned from a good marriage ministry, and what we now teach to our class, is how to fight fair. We tell our couples, it’s okay if their conflict hurts a little as long as it does not cause lasting damage. It’s okay and it is healthy to have differences. The key is knowing how to work out those differences without using wrong approaches to conflict that create more harm.
Two types of wrong approaches to conflict.
1) Some couples try to avoid conflict at all cost. This is also something we did sometimes. It’s called the turtle approach, where we simply withdrawal. Our aim was to avoid the conflicts. We gave each other the cold shoulder as we avoided any contact. We used diversionary tactics such as changing the subject or staying overly involved in work or hobbies, like I did by watching too much sports.
But what the research tells us is, the number one predictor of an eventual divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict.
2) Then sometimes the conflict is more of the shark attack style. That’s what it was for us anytime we tried to resolve our differences. It was all about winning at all cost. There was a lot of blame shifting, score keeping, and big threats. Words, especially mine, were used to cut and humiliate.
Understand the source of conflict
We have to know what is causing the conflict. Is it from our differences and we just need to know how to work our way through it in a healthy way? Or is just a matter of our selfish sin nature that needs to be brought under subjection and surrender to the Lord?
This is where it is always important to check our heart and our motives with what the word teaches us.
James 4:1-3 “ What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
Bottom line, our conflicts can be indicators of where our hearts are. Or they can be just a matter of learning to accept each other’s differences and finding ways to work together. Either way, there has to be a healthy approach to knowing how to fight fair and knowing how to stop a fight once it has started. Then you won’t see a good love go bad. You will see a good love become great.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to post your comments. We would love to hear from you.