As we discussed on Day One, conflict is not a bad thing. What is important is how we deal with it. One of the biggest myths about marriage is that fights “just happen”; that they are random, unpredictable events. Instead, I believe that people make a conscious, deliberate choice when they decide to turn a disagreement into a fight. The success of a marriage is often seen in how a couple handles conflict with one another.
This devotional is intended to help both of you become open to feedback from each other, choose to become the most authentic, loving partners possible, and learn to bring real and lasting transformation to your marriage. In my work with couples, I believe that process matters much more than content. I don’t think a difference in beliefs or attitudes about a certain topic creates conflict between partners; most couples can work through differences of opinion. The way couples treat each other when they talk about issues causes the greater conflict. In fact, many couples, when they learn to focus on treating each other with respect, honor, and love, sometimes don’t even remember what they were arguing about!
To this end, we need to understand what is meant when we talk about process. When I refer to process, I am talking about the way two people interact within their marriage, how they treat one another, and what happens between them that drives the behaviors they choose to display. Process focuses on how you relate to each other. In contrast, content focuses on what you disagree on every day—the specific issues that create difficulty such as parenting, work, or in-laws.
I want you to begin thinking about conflict between you and your partner differently. Instead of thinking about conflict in terms of what you fight about, I want you to think about how you treat each other during an argument. For example, what are your attitudes and behaviors like? Are you mean and hurtful or do you show respect, love, and honor to each other? Do you interrupt and criticize each other, or do you listen well and focus on your partner?
Learning to make these choices will not be easy, nor will the potential challenges to your relationship be painless to overcome. You didn’t arrive where you are overnight, so you won’t build the marriage of your dreams overnight either. The hope you can believe in is that you and your partner can choose to be in control of what happens in your relationship. If you have the courage to take this journey, the possibilities are life-changing.
‘Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ‘ Philippians 4:8