This is a portion of an abbreviated series in which we are discovering God’s design for conflict resolution in marriage. In this third part we look at how we should resolve conflicts using the biblical examples and guidelines already observed in parts one and two. This article will also offer some practical ways in which resolution may be achieved. Our final article — Part 4 — will list suggested steps to follow when coping with “stuckness” in conflicts.
How We Should Resolve Conflict
We now know that we also argue because of our differences not just because of the issues (see “Why Do We Really Argue?”). We also know that there are biblical instructions for arguing in God-honoring ways (see “How Should We Argue?”).
Four practical tips for conflict resolution:
First, get to a place where you can accept your partner’s position in a conflict. Be open-minded as well as open hearted by “hearing out” their argument or reasoning. Just listen and allow them to fully express their feelings and/or concerns. Summarize what you have just heard them say. This gives the assurance that you have absorbed and respect their right to have their opinion.
Second, acknowledge or confess any blocks that may be hindering your movement towards resolution; pride, desire for control, selfishness, insecurity, etc. If you can openly admit to any block during a conflict, your heart — and quite possibly your partner’s — will be softened, therefore allowing the Holy Spirit to enter into the resolution process with you.
Third, seek forgiveness for your part in the conflict. This is a tough one! In the midst of this heavy conflict I’m supposed to stop and ask for forgiveness … Just like that?
Remember my wife, Erika? When we argue, her level-headed structured thinking comes out at it’s best! I’m so impulsive and quick to react that I sometimes need to apologize and seek forgiveness for how I respond out of frustration and insecurity. My admission and her forgiveness re-assures both of us that we are arguing about an issue and not attacking each other’s character (we still love each other — we’re just arguing!). That’s an extremely important distinction during conflict resolution.
Lastly, show your willingness to reach a compromise. In order to do this you will need to prepare your heart through prayer. Examples may be like, “Lord, soften my (our) heart now and reveal a solution that will fulfill both of our desires” or ” Join us again, Lord, in our oneness and our commitment to resolve our conflict”.
Try this exercise: take some time to discuss and write a simple prayer together when you are not in conflict. Don’t make it long — the shorter the better. Then the next time you are in the midst of a seemingly unsolvable argument, either of you (or both) may be able to pause and read the agreed-upon prayer aloud. It has an awesome effect on conflict resolution!
“Dance” With Your Partner!
We recently listened to Ken Gire, author of Divine Embrace, as he illustrated God leading us in a grace-filled waltz depicting intimacy, union and unconditional love. Just imagine dancing with your partner during a conflict. I’m not talking about the physical dance here (Erika and I love to waltz!), but the emotional dance.
The “dance” involves several steps or moves:
1) Speaking their primary Love Language — acts of service, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch — which Gary Chapman refers to in his book The Five Love Languages,
2) making deposits — not withdrawals — in your partner’s “love bank”,
3) developing a good “dialog” with you partner (don’t talk above or beneath them) and
4) giving your partner the assurance that “all is well” — a phrase that Erika and I use to indicate that ” there is peace in my heart and we are secure again”.
Can you imagine that kind of “dance” with your partner? You can build intimacy and union with your partner (even during an argument) through all these concepts emulated by Jesus — loving, embracing, forgiving, and edifying with assurance. Talk about “dancing”! That’s really putting Christ in the center of your conflict.
The Traffic-Light Decision Making Tool
Making decisions is a natural part of any conflict resolution. You’ve heard it said before, ” We’ll either agree or agree to disagree!” Either way a decision has to be reached. Erika and I were first introduced to the traffic-light concept by our seminar co-instructors, Ann and Tim Evans, who now serve at Lakeland Community Church in Holland, Michigan. We’ve been using their method of decision-making for many years.
Imagine a traffic light (red/yellow/green light) hanging in front of any decision you are about to make. The premise is simple; both red means “no!” — both green means “yes!” — if either partner is yellow ? “not now!”
It is very crucial to avoid using manipulation by holding out or deliberately preventing movement towards resolution. Trust issues and resentment may arise therefore escalating the conflict or delaying resolution
So during an argument — for example, when a resolution has been proposed — we use this method to reach a compromise if not a complete decision. The traffic-light tool can give a clear indication of where each partner is in the resolution process.
So how should we resolve conflicts? By applying the biblical concepts and guidelines Jesus Himself used in loving and nurturing us: understanding where we are in our relationship with Him, offering us unconditional love in confessing our sins and seeking His forgiveness, softening our hearts with peace and finally providing a pathway for making a “green light” decision to accept Him as Lord.
In our 4th and final installment — Coping with Stuckness! — We’ll look at what steps can be taken to move off perpetual conflicts when there just doesn’t seem to be any resolution. We’ll discuss the serious signs of being stuck and whom you can turn to for help.
Duane is on staff with Marriagetrac and is a regular contributor to our featured article library. He and his wife Erika are voluntary marriage mentors for pre-married couples within their church. They also serve Marriagetrac as seminar leaders and teachers of various Bible-based marriage topics custom written upon request. They have five married daughters and seven grandchildren!
Copyright © 2001, Duane Careb. All rights reserved. Used with Permission