Couple devotional: Healthy conflict managementWritten by Laird Crump
What's inside this article
This month’s couple devotional is focused on the challenges of marriage and, in particular, the thriving marriage trait of healthy conflict management.
Begin your devotional by praying that God would impact both you and your spouse with His truth.
Read the following thriving marriage statement out loud together.
Healthy conflict management: Thriving couples know how to have a good fight but stay in love. They understand how they each process conflict and strive to bring out the best in each other during disagreements. They view conflict as constructive, deal with honest immediacy and approach problems as a team. They are quick to express grace and forgiveness to each other and aim to keep short accounts.
On a scale of 1-10, (1 = low, 10 = high) how are you doing in regards to managing conflict?
As a couple, what could you do to increase effectiveness in this area of your marriage?
Read and reflect on the following Bible passages:
If you have been married for any length of time, you know that conflict comes with the relational territory. As much as we like to downplay it or ignore it, conflict inevitably rears its ugly head in even the best of relationships. It has been said that, in the first year of marriage, the man argues and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman argues and the man listens. In the third year, they both argue and the neighbours listen!
Not ever couple experiences perpetual conflict but it’s safe to say whenever you bring two people together to live in close proximity, there will be conflict. God has created all of us with incredible individuality that is highly enjoyable at times, but at other times the differences between us drive us absolutely crazy. Conflict is normal in marriage so we need to learn how to manage it well.
Although there are numerous books about conflict resolution for couples, it’s important to see what God says in His Word about conflict.
Genesis 3:16-19 tells us of the origins of conflict. Essentially, conflict between people is a result of the original sinful act of self-centredness versus God-centredness. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, it began a process of deterioration in all things – including relationships. After the fall, there was competition for control of the relationship between Adam and Eve. We still see this repercussion happening in relationships today.
James 4:1-3 explains further the root cause of conflict: We fight because each of us selfishly wants our own way. Isn’t it surprising how we, as mature adults, can sometimes act like selfish two-year-olds?
Ephesians 4:26-32 explains why we continue to fight. Several reasons are given here. First of all, we don’t deal with conflict with immediacy. We let our disagreements build up until someone blows their top. God says to not let the sun go down with unresolved conflict. There is great value in resolving our differences on a daily basis. If we don’t, Scripture tells us that our conflict can give the devil a foothold in our lives. That can be very dangerous for a couple as resentment and bitterness fester in our lives and become destructive. Keeping short accounts with one another is essential for couple harmony.
Secondly, we continue to fight because of the provoking words we throw at each other. We wrestle with issues like bitterness, rage and even slander. This kind of reaction grieves God who wants the two of you to get along well. One solution of course is to replace hostility with compassion and to work hard at being kind to one another. Think of some of the hot button words you use that can add fuel to the fire. We would be wise to follow God’s advice and to keep any unwholesome words from coming out of our mouths.
The last strategy, though, is to work through issues of forgiveness with each other. Even healthy couples have regular disagreements and forgiveness is the path of peace and restoration. We need to forgive our spouse just as God has forgiven us. This is so critically important because when we live in close proximity to each other, we will invariably be ticking each other off. Forgiveness is essential, and sometimes we might even need the help of a counsellor to help us in the process of forgiving each other.
Romans 12:18 speaks of our personal responsibility in conflict. Each spouse needs to do their part at living in peace. You can’t control your spouse but you can control yourself. Therefore we need to take responsibility and choose the way of peace rather than adding fuel to the fire.
Conflict is inevitable in even the best of relationships. Thriving couples know how to have a good fight and to stay in love.
- As you reflect on these principles from God’s Word, what do you sense the Spirit of God wants you to understand?
- Review Genesis 3:16-19. In what ways do you both compete for control in your relationship?
- Think of a time when you went to bed with unresolved conflict. How did you feel the next day?
- Discuss how God has forgiven you in Christ. What does that look like? How can you forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you? If you are struggling in this area, don’t hesitate to contact our counselling department. Sometimes our arguments can become twisted and tangled, and we need the objectivity of a neutral third party.
- Forgiveness and restoration does not mean that we sweep issues under the carpet. True forgiveness involves informing your spouse as to how they offended you and what you would like them to do differently. Identify a controversial issue in your relationship and discuss how you feel and what could be done differently. Think about making as agreement with each other to honour this Biblical principle.
- During arguments our natural inclination is to try to win. Instead of thinking about winning, think of how you can bring out the best in your spouse during the argument. Tell your spouse a few ways in which they could really help you when in the midst of conflict.
Take a few moments to listen to God, express your concerns to Him and ask Him to help you reflect His relational ideas in your marriage.
Reference to the individuals and organizations quoted does not constitute a blanket endorsement of either the individuals’ external work or their respective organizations.
Laird Crump was the director of marriage ministry at Focus on the Family Canada.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.Our recommended resources
Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox