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Resolving Conflict in Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

by Chris and Shannon McKinney

Resolving conflict in marriage requires intentionality and commitment. Last week, we brought you the first two of four key points on how to resolve conflict in marriage. Here are the remaining key points on how to resolve conflict.

Key Point #3: Do Not Listen to Negative Thoughts About Your Spouse

You may have heard the term “negative self-talk” which is used to describe overly critical or disparaging thoughts that we sometimes think about ourselves. Be aware that the same issues exist in your relationship with your spouse.

There are negative voices that will try to explain your spouse’s motives and intentions to you. When you are upset, those voices will tend to magnify the flaws you perceive in your spouse while discounting all of the good things about your spouse.

Learn to Recognize the Lies

Here are a few examples of untrue thoughts we tend to have about our spouse.

  1. He never listens to me.
  2. She doesn’t care at all about my physical needs.
  3. He thinks about sex all the time. Or he’s only interested in me for sex.
  4. She just loves to argue.
  5. Yes, he works hard, but only because he wants to have nice stuff. He doesn’t really do it for our family.
  6. She’s never happy, no matter what I do.

Replace the Lies with Truth

Here are the rebuttals of truth that we desperately need, but often cannot find in a moment of frustration:

  1. He actually listens to you a lot. Literally every single day, he listens to you. Every now and then, he’s not really up for a conversation, but he didn’t know how to express that without hurting your feelings. So he tried to listen and got distracted. Or he pretended to listen, but he didn’t even realize that’s what he was doing. He had no ill intent toward you. He was just tired or focused on something else at the moment.
  2. She cares very much about your physical needs. Your wife goes out of her way to look good for you and to keep you satisfied sexually. She just wants more personal connection and romance in the relationship, but she doesn’t know how to get that across to you.
  3. He actually loves many things about you. Your husband probably spent way more time with you snuggled up watching movies, eating, or talking than he did having sex last week.
  4. She doesn’t love to argue, but she has reached a point of frustration and she doesn’t know how to resolve it without some amount of conflict. Conflict is necessary sometimes. The key is to keep it healthy.
  5. Most men take their role as provider very seriously. It’s not so much that they are addicted to work, materialistic, or in love with money. It’s that they feel a natural burden to provide well for the family, and their work ethic reflects this.
  6. She probably just needs a few basic things that she hasn’t gotten in a while. A date. A personal connection. Some eye contact and attentive listening. Men often forget to do those things, especially when we’ve been focused on things besides our relationship (work, hobbies, friends, kids, sports, etc.).

When you find yourself using words and phrases like never, only, all the time, loves, hates—and other words that create extreme positions—just recognize that they are probably not true. These are just forms of negative talk about your spouse. Replace them with true thoughts about your spouse.

Key Point #4: Recognize that Unity Leads to Blessing

The Bible teaches that unity is very powerful. When a group of people are unified, they can accomplish almost anything together. Patrick Lencioni has taken this principle into the business world and crafted one of the most successful consulting and author careers of all-time.

Lencioni says that the number one predictor of any organization’s success is how well they function as a team. Here’s what most of us fail to recognize: Marriage is the ultimate team activity!

Marriage is a partnership, and we tend to have some common goals we’re working toward. Some examples might be owning a dream home, raising kids well, achieving professional dreams, living a prosperous life, or having a certain type of family environment. Whatever the common goals are in your marriage, unity is a major key to achieving them.

Unity is not the same as uniformity. The husband may take a different approach with the kids than the wife takes, for example. Maybe each one’s approach plays to their strengths or their role in the home. When it comes to professional achievements, maybe one spouse prefers dependability whereas the other prefers the excitement of starting new ventures.

Unity does not mean we have to do the exact same things. Rather, unity means that we agree on our common goals and we respect the differences of our spouse. We value their insights, abilities, and methods, even if they are very different from our own.

Chris really struggled with this one for a long time. He puts a lot of time and effort and thought into everything he does, from the best way to pursue a new business line to the best driving route to take at a certain time of day. His mistake was in thinking that his wife has not done the same thing.

Shannon also thinks through the decisions she makes, and she has good reasons for the method or path she chooses. Her way may look different from his, but her way is also valuable. Their respective methods may have different strengths and weaknesses, but that does not mean one is superior to the other.

How God Feels About Unity

God cares much more about unity than He does about other details. He’s not so concerned about whether or not you picked the right shutters for your home, or the right advertising strategy for your business. He’s much more interested in unity.

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19 NIV)

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! … For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psalm 133 NIV)

Where does the Lord bestow His blessing? Where His people dwell in unity!

Think About Your Own Children

Think about it this way. If you have children, don’t you hate it when they are fighting? We have two little ones that sometimes struggle to get along. The yelling, screaming, hitting, and biting—we just want those things to stop immediately. It’s terrible watching your children fight.

On the other hand, when our kids are coloring or playing together, sharing, and speaking kind words, we want to give them the world. Anything they ask from us, they are much more likely to get a “Yes!”

“Absolutely!”

“You’re being so kind to each other that we want to give you anything you want.”

“Ice cream before dinner? You bet! You guys were so nice to each other today!”

God sees us that same way.

When you commit yourselves to resolving conflict quickly and in healthy ways, you are committing yourselves to unity. When you commit to unity in your marriage, you will see blessings flow in areas that you had no idea were being affected!

The photo at the top of the article is by freestocks on Unsplash

Shannon McKinney
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