For the most part my spouse and I have a pretty good relationship. I mean, sometimes our discussions are heated but it's not like we fight in public or anything.
If we had more money we'd probably never fight. It seems like there's never enough to go around. My hunch is it's all the meals my spouse eats out…even though I prepare packed lunches every day. My spouse blames our money trouble on my shopping, which I completely disagree with. If I didn't shop, we wouldn't have food for the packed lunches!
Friends have suggested seeing a counsellor, but it's not like we have any real problems. I mean, what's a little debt? I'm sure it will all work out in a few years.
Marital conflict is a fact of life because of different motives, methods, perspectives, personalities, and desires. Conflict per se isn't necessarily bad. But when conflict is rooted in sin and self-centredness, or resolved in sinful ways then it will be unhealthy and destructive.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18; cf. 14:19). “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8, 9).
THE SOLUTION — Distinguish the sources for the conflict and address accordingly:
- Personality Traits—Everyone has different traits. They aren't sins. Traits could be based in the weaknesses of your spouse's personality or they just may be different from you. Don't try to change your spouse's personality. Only God can change someone.
- Unintended Emotional Hurt—When someone hurts your feelings and he didn't intend to we can easily fall into the trap of blaming and taking it personally. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
- Preferences—We all have preferences that are not sinful, just different. Just because you think one way doesn't mean your spouse's opposite thinking is wrong. You don't need to change your preferences, just respect each other's and allow the other freedom. Communicate what's valuable to you and listen to what is valuable to your spouse.
- Sin—When your spouse sins, you will need to humbly call his attention to it. If your spouse is unrepentant you need to decide if it's the kind of sin that requires escalated action (taking it to the church or police and/or separation) or not. If it's not liable to end the marriage then what can we do?
It is important to show grace, which means thinking, “I could do something like that, or equally bad.” It also means forgiving our mate, but forgiving doesn't mean we're saying the sin didn't happen or that he or she shouldn't suffer the consequences of sin. But it means releasing our anger and our need to take revenge. Set up a plan for accountability and strength for your spouse to turn from the sin so the two of you can be reconciled.
- Check your motives for evidence of manipulation, mistrust, or feelings of resentment or entitlement. These breed conflict (James 4:1-3). Ask yourself why this is so important to you. Be sure you want what God wants (Philippians 2:2-8).
- Exercise humility. Focus on understanding your spouse's needs.
- Attack problems not people. View yourselves as a team striving for resolution together rather than as opponents at odds.
- Do not escalate the conflict by yelling, using demeaning and abusive language, or using inflammatory statements such as “always” and “never.”
- Do more of what works and less of what doesn't. Don't avoid conflict. Rather, major on points of agreement so you have a foundation from which to attack problems.