Christian Marriages: Handling Conflict

Handling Conflict
September 2008
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Conflict is common to all marriages. The goal of marriage is not to be conflict free, but rather handle conflict in a manner that a couple can make progress and draw closer together rather than be driven apart.

Holding Hands Anatomy of Anger
I can’t talk about handling conflict without addressing the emotion of anger. Two Greek words are used in the New Testament for our English word “anger.” One (orge) means “passion, energy;” the other (thumos) means “agitated, boiling.”Ephesians 4:26 states, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Anger can be a destructive force as in Genesis 4:6-7, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire for you, but you must master it.” Anger can also be a call for change as in John 2:14-16 when Jesus was angered coming into the temple and found merchants buying and selling their goods. He was protecting God’s house. Lastly, anger can be a bid for closeness – albeit miscuing and misdirected, but a bid none-the-less as found in Ephesians 4:29 “…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects of Him, who is the head, even Christ…”
Biblically, anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems.

Walk Away Wife Syndrome Type of Problem to be Solved
All problems fall into one of two categories, perpetual and solvable. Many clients come to Stein Counseling due to the resentments and hurt feelings from the perpetual problems that have spread into the fondness and admiration system like cancer. Gottman (2007) proposes perpetual problems are either (1) fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict or (2) fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs, needs that are basic to your own identity, to who you are as a person. Perpetual problems are issues you have had for a long time that keep arising. The issue is GRIDLOCKED if it keeps causing you lots of hurt, pain, and a feeling of rejection. Here is some examples.

· Differences in neatness and organization. One person is neat and organized, and the other is sloppy and disorganized.
· Differences in wanting time together versus time apart and alone. One person wants more time alone than the other, who wants more time together.
· Differences in optimal sexual frequency. One person wants more sex than the other.
· Differences in preferred lovemaking style. There are differences in what each person wants from lovemaking. For example, one sees intimacy as a
precondition to making love, while the other sees lovemaking as a path to
· Differences in handling finances. One person is much more financially
conservative and perhaps a worrier, while the other wants to spend money
more freely and has a philosophy of living more for the moment. (© 2000-2007 by Dr. John M. Gottman. Distributed under license by The Gottman Institute, Inc.)

If you and your spouse are gridlocked, schedule an appointment by clicking this link for an appointment request.

Galatians 6:1 states “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  Also Ephesians 4:29 states ‘Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Gottman’s (2007) research revealed that one does not win an argument by countering everything her or his partner says. If you are a brick wall, things will only escalate. In fact, what you have to do to win is to get your partner to start saying yes, and the only way to do that is to yield to those parts of your partner’s point of view and argument that seem reasonable to you. What happens then-when you start yielding-is that the issue starts to becomes something that both of you are working on together.

Ephesians 4:32 states “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Repair, Repair, Repair
Heed Ephesians 4:26 (New International Version):

“In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

Conflict is inevitable in a marriage. Another key is repair – both during and after an argument. There is a six step process that comes more naturally to some couples than others.  The good news is this can be learned and become more natural over time. The Bible has clear directives on repair and Gottman (2007) proposes this process:

1. 1 Peter 3:9-10:
“Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing. The Scripture says, “A person must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. He must not say evil things, and he must not tell lies.”

Each of you takes a turn describing what you were feeling during the disagreement. You may either choose from the list below or come up with your own description. Remember to keep your comments simple and keep to the format “I felt . . .” avoiding statements such as “I felt like you . . .”

1. I felt defensive.
2. I felt listened to.
3. My feelings got hurt.
4. I felt understood.
5. I felt angry.
6. I felt unfairly picked on.
7. I felt appreciated.
8. I felt unappreciated.
9. I felt unattractive.
10. I felt attractive.

2. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Proverbs 3:5 (New International Version)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;”

Share your subjective reality.

Summarize your own personal reality about the disagreement. What was the
reality for you?

3. Galatians 5:22-23; “But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong.”
Exodus 14:14
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Find something in your partner’s story that you can understand.

Now, try and see how your partner’s subjective reality might make sense, given your partner’s perspective. Tell your partner about one piece of his or her reality that makes sense to you.

4. Romans 8:25-26;
“But we are hoping for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently. Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.”
Ephesians 4:26;
“When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.”
Ecclesiastes 7:9;
“Don’t become angry quickly, because getting angry is foolish.”

Are you overwhelmed with negative emotions and need to calm down?

Check and see if either of you is flooded. If so, take a break and pray before continuing.

5. Romans 14:12: “So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.”
Admit your own role.

It is essential that each of you takes some responsibility for what happened.

6.  1 John 3:18
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
James 1:17-18;
“Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars, who does not change like their shifting shadows. God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all things he made.”

Make it better in the future

1. What is one thing your partner could do differently next time?
2. What is one thing you could do differently next time?

1 Peter 4:8
“Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause many sins to be forgiven.”

Love and Respect

by Emerson Eggerichs by Integrity Publishers

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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

by John M. Gottman by Three Rivers Press
Paperback ~ Release Date: 2000-05-16

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In This Issue
Anatomy Of Anger
Types of Problems
Repair the Relationship
Purchase the Book
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