Handling the Everyday Conflict in your Marriage

Happy Valentine's Day, Kid Care Families!  I'm excited to introduce you to Beau Landers, our guest blogger for today!  Beau is one of the Discipleship Pastors at Cottonwood Creek Church. As part of his role on staff, he works with teaching and equipping young families. He is married to Sarah, and they have two little boys, Owen and Elliot.

            In light of Valentine’s Day, I want to offer a few points on a not-so-glamorous aspect of marriage: the inevitability of conflict. No matter how hard we try to fold all the laundry, be on-time to places or putting the toilet seat down, there will always be something that sparks a fire. The key is: How do we stop that fire from burning down the forest? In other words, how do we address the conflicts in our marriages so our marriages aren’t destroyed? I want to propose a quick, two-step process to run through when you find yourself in the midst of a marital spat.

  • Step 1: Admit that your spouse is a sinner, and so are you.

Romans 5:8 – But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

            The first part of this step is easy: you know your spouse is a sinner! You know when your spouse has done something wrong, not fulfilled their duty, messed up, been mean, hateful, prideful, selfish, etc. You may even argue that you are in the particular argument because “they started it.”

            However, it’s important to remember that you are also a sinner. You have selfish motives, hateful tendencies, and wrongful desires. The problem lies in our arrogance as we say: “It’s their fault; I’ve done nothing wrong.” But this is what I have found: I can ALWAYS apologize for something. Here are a few recent examples:

  • I’m sorry for being prideful and arrogant in thinking my way is the only way.
  • I’m sorry for the way I responded to your accusations.
  • I’m sorry I didn’t do what you asked me to do.
  • I’m sorry that I did not try and understand where you were coming from.
  • I’m sorry for being inconsiderate.
  • I’m sorry for being selfish and not loving you very well.

             Notice, none of these say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and none of these are followed by “but…” Instead, these are all honest attempts to apologize for what I have done and where I have sinned. This is hard, but this is needed. We are all sinners. We are all in need of God’s grace, love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The first step to diffusing a conflict is recognizing your sin in the situation and asking for forgiveness both from God and from your spouse.

  • Step 2: You are on the same team.

 Ephesians 5:31 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

             After recognizing, addressing and asking for forgiveness, the second step is to understand that you and your spouse are on the same team. A team works together to accomplish a goal. A quarterback and a receiver may have their differences in how to get the ball into the end zone, but they both want to score. For marriage, you and your spouse must pause the conflict, determine what is the heart of the issue, and then discover the best way to accomplish that problem together.

           To do this well requires humility and the laying aside of your personal agenda for the sake of your marriage and your family. Even in the most heated debates, when my wife and I step back and remind ourselves that we both love one another and are working toward the same goal, it quickly diffuses the argument into something manageable and productive. This doesn’t overlook either of our wrongdoings, but shifts it into an opportunity to grow.

            In no way are these two steps a “fix-all” when it comes to your marital problems. But this is a God-honoring, biblical way to work through the various conflicts we experience in the day-to-day. Marriage is a constant act of service, humility and love. God has designed marriage so that each day we are working to look more like Him. May we use our everyday squabbles to highlight His grace and His reconciliation. 

Further marriage resources:

  • God, Marriage and Family, Andreas Kostenberger
  • The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler
  • This Momentary Marriage, John Piper
  • When Sinners Say, “I Do”, Dave Harvey
  • Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas
  • Choosing to Cheat, Andy Stanley
  • The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller
  • The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman