Sometimes I don’t want to talk to or listen to my wife. Even though we’ve been married since 2001 and I’ve served as a marriage pastor since 2006, I admit I sometimes strongly dislike communicating and resolving disagreements.
The reality is, most married couples don’t love to communicate or resolve conflict. We’re not good at it, it’s rarely modeled well, and it takes so much time and effort to do it with success. Our selfish desires get in the way, and most of the time we are radically different from our spouse in the ways we prefer to communicate and resolve disagreements.
All our lives we’re taught to win, defend, and prove our point. These tactics might work in a debate, argument, or sporting event, but they won’t work in a marriage relationship. If you act like this with your spouse, you will end up with a mess of a marriage. You and your spouse won’t truly know each other, and you’ll end up resenting the person you are intended to love most.
What if things could be different?
What if the two of you were able to engage in awkward and difficult conversations, which are inevitable in any relationship, and come out of them better off and closer than ever? Imagine learning to value understanding each other rather than winning. Marriage calls for a different type of communication, where if one person “wins” an argument, then no winner truly exists.
Next to your decision of whether or not to follow Christ and trust Him as your Lord and Savior, how you communicate and resolve conflict will play the biggest role in determining the strength and health of your relationship.
Five Nonnegotiables of Communication and Conflict Resolution
How can you communicate in a healthy way, help your spouse grow, and create a safe environment in your relationship for communication and conflict resolution? Each of these five essential components of healthy communication and conflict resolution comes directly from God’s Word.
1. Seek to Understand, Not Win
Perhaps no verse better captures both the problems and opportunities in communication and conflict resolution than Proverbs 18:2, which says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” When it comes to communication, the foolish person wants to win every argument and always expresses their opinion. On the other hand, the wise person chooses to understand and put the thoughts, feelings, and desires of their spouse before themselves.
The couple who seeks to understand each other knows that effective communication takes effort. If we want to grow and move toward our spouse. We need to be intentional to understand and communicate with our significant other.
2. Learn to Communicate and Resolve Conflict in a Selfless Way
In marriage and relationships, selfishness swoops in and tries to break down the marriage and destroy God’s picture of intimacy and oneness. I’m sure you can think of many examples of how you and your significant other are selfish. Our culture has a very low threshold for pain, and when the going gets rough, we want out. But getting out is not the solution. Fortunately, God’s Word provides the solution. The book of James, written by Jesus’s brother, is filled with practical wisdom. It points to the fact that our lives as followers of Jesus should align with the ways we think, the decisions we make, and the way we live.
James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
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We fight because we want something, and our passions and desires rule over and control us. While we try to blame our significant other or the circumstances around us, the real reason we fight is because our selfish desires wage war within us. If you are going to succeed in your marriage, then you are going to have to deal with your selfishness.
3. Be Quick to Listen
James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” This verse is simple to understand but much more complicated to apply. Most of us want to get our point across and win instead of stopping to listen to our spouse. Instead, do the following:
- Choose to listen.
- Learn to be an active listener.
- Pay attention to your nonverbal communication.
- Think about your posture, your hands, and your facial expression.
4. Change the Way You View Conflict
Most of us do whatever we can to steer clear of awkward and challenging conversations. We pretend issues don’t exist, or we brush them under the rug to run away from conflict. Instead, you and your future spouse can be intentional about growing in your ability to communicate and resolve conflict. Couples who do well in marriage view conflict resolution as an opportunity for growth with God and with each other. Disagreements can become a means to help you become more like Jesus and develop oneness in your relationship.
5. Become an Expert in Forgiveness
No relationship will provide you with more opportunities to seek or grant forgiveness than marriage. For this reason, you need to become an expert in seeking and granting forgiveness.
Get really good at apologizing and asking for forgiveness, and be a good forgiver.
A few years into our marriage, my wife Kristen and I developed a sincere belief that God created marriage for oneness. We learned that when we have a difference of opinion or a conflict of some kind, it’s not about being right or winning but rather about us being one flesh together. When one of us wins an argument in marriage, we really hurt ourselves. We learned it’s no longer “you” or “me” but rather “us.”
In marriage, we’ve got to be careful of the words we use with the person we love. Know that you will be deeply affected by the words and tone your spouse will use, and they will be impacted by the words and tone you use.
Adapted from Ready or Knot. Copyright © 2019 Scott Kedersha, published by Baker Publishing, used with permission, all rights reserved.