Conflict in marriage is inevitable. If any married person says that they don’t have conflict with their spouse, they are either lying or they don’t actually interact with their husband or wife. Two people living together, regardless of how much they love each other and how strong their commitment is, will disagree with each other or hurt each other from time to time.
Marital conflict need not be seen as a sign of serious problems in the relationship. In face, conflict in marriage can be a healthy thing! It gives us an opportunity to learn more about our spouse and ourselves and work towards a stronger union. However, that can only happen when conflict is handled appropriately.
Before we can even start to think about the words and actions that can turn a conflict into a more serious issue, we have to start with our hearts and minds. Keeping our thoughts and emotions in check during a marital conflict is not always an easy thing to do, especially if we feel very strongly about something, but bringing those thoughts and emotions under control can do so much to ensure our conflict is a healthy one!
If you are anything like me, when you are facing a conflict with your husband, your focus naturally goes to your thoughts, your perspective, and your feelings. I often feel like I need to fully communicate with my husband all of the different emotions that are rumbling in my heart and the thoughts that are swirling in my mind when we are experiencing conflict. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think that our husbands can be helped when we are able to do that calmly and respectfully.
The challenge for me, and I suspect for many other wives, is that I can be so focused on my own heart and mind that I don’t stop myself to really consider the situation from my husband’s perspective. When I keep the focus on me, I’m also more prone to brood over the wrongs done to me, and that can lead to me becoming more upset with the situation than I really need to be. Rather than talking myself through and praying through my strong emotions, leaving me calmer and gentler, I might continue to convince myself that I’ve been terribly wronged, leaving me angrier or more saddened. Can anyone else relate?
A while ago I read Martha Peace’s book The Excellent Wife (affiliate link), and what impressed me the most from the book was the way she encouraged wives to recognize unbiblical thinking during hard situations and replace it with thoughts that line up with Scripture. Her advice really has helped me to deal with conflict in a more humble, Christ-like way, though I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be! When I replace my selfish, fleshly thoughts with those inspired by the Bible, my heart is always in a better place.
So what might this look like during a conflict?
- Giving my husband the benefit of the doubt: When I’m hurt, it’s easy to think like my children and tell myself that I was wronged on purpose. However, when I can recognize those thoughts and change them, I’m often much closer to the truth of what happened! I have to stop and remind myself that my husband wouldn’t hurt me on purpose and that he does care very much about me. He’s not out to cause me pain, and he truly is a good man.
- Considering what I could have done better: Rarely is there ever a conflict with one party 100% innocent and the other completely guilty. Even if I’m only 10% wrong, I can ask the Lord to help me take full responsibility for that 10% (another nugget from The Excellent Wife!). It’s humbling to take responsibility for our wrongs, especially when we feel hurt by the other person, but it can do so much to further conflict resolution. If I can’t see what I’ve done wrong at first, sincerely asking the Lord to show me will often open my eyes to my own shortcomings.
- Talking through my strong emotions in prayer: When we feel really hurt or have a lot on our minds, we often feel like we need to vent to someone. But when those thoughts and feelings are because of a conflict in marriage, we need to be so careful with how we handle that. As a wise woman once told me, “Sometimes when we feel like we just need to talk, we really need to just talk to the Lord.” Resolving our conflict will go much better if I’ve spent time in prayer before talking with my husband.
- Trying to see things through my husband’s eyes: Instead of focusing on my own perspective, I can try to imagine what my husband is thinking and feeling. I can try to put myself in his position and have a heart of compassion rather than trying to prove that I’m right and he’s wrong. He may be hurting, too, and his perspective deserves to be heard as much as mine.
- Remembering my own past mistakes and his forgiveness: When my husband makes a mistake and hurts or upsets me, I could think things like “I can’t believe he…” or “How could he…” Or, I can remind myself of the many times he has graciously forgiven me for the hurtful mistakes that I have made. I can say without a doubt that he has seen me at my very worse, yet has chosen to forgive me and move on. What kind of woman would I be if I didn’t do the same for him?
What do you think? How do you keep your thoughts and emotions in check during marital conflict?
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