“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Victor Frankl
William James said that “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is how we react.” I agree with him. It is all about reaction. Our reaction should be based on a fundamental question: Is the issue causing the conflict important enough to fight about?
Here’s the thing: Circumstances themselves cannot cause problems. Our emotional reactions are what ultimately cause problems, because negative reactions often escalate the situation.
So while it is impossible to eliminate all possible causes of conflict in marriage, it is possible to pause and consider our response to them. If a husband loses it and explodes on his wife unfairly, it will be the wife’s response that will define the outcome. She can escalate the situation or she can defuse the situation. This also works in the reverse situation – if it is the wife exploding at the husband.
Matthew 5:25 tells us, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.” How much more should we agree with our spouse quickly? Finding agreement is the key to preventing escalation of conflict.
Try waiting until all the heated emotions and verbal sparring settles down before seeking agreement. I’m not suggesting you ignore any issues that pop up between spouses. I’m simply suggesting you wait until things quiet down and you have some perspective. Romans 6:11 says “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We are to be dead to sin and we are to live the reality of our position in Christ. Restore your spouse in meekness and humility, knowing you also need that same grace of Christ on a daily basis.
Then push the conflict into the past. We have to ask ourselves how badly do we want to avoid fights? Badly enough to yield to the Spirit of God and to forgive and forget and maintain happiness in your marriage.
- What are the issues that result in conflict? What kind of faults in your spouse do you tend to not tolerate? What faults in yourself create conflicts with your spouse?
- What keeps you from compromise in your marriage conflicts?
- What is the difference between trying to change your spouse and trying to resolve a conflict?
- Who is responsible for fixing the conflicts that need resolving.