Most people don’t like conflict, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, there is much good that can come out of conflict if you know a healthy process to work through it AND you keep the following 3 opportunities in mind:
1. It is an opportunity to grow in your understanding of each other.
Saying we all want to be understood is like saying we all need air to breathe. But how often do we focus on understanding the person we are talking to, especially when we are in conflict?
Think of the last time tension was experienced between you and your spouse. There was a reason he or she was upset. Do you know the reason? Or let me say it this way: are you ONE HUNDRED PERCENT sure you know the reason? If not, then there is more to learn and more to understand.
When time is taken to discover more about each other in times of conflict, it goes a long way in helping to resolve the conflict AND prevent it from starting up again.
2. It is an opportunity for personal refinement – becoming a better person.
If there is one thing I know about me, I haven’t arrived yet. If I live until I am 99, I have no doubt I will still have room to grow. Daily I see areas in my life I would like to see changed. When in a conflict with my wife or children, those areas come to light even more.
My daughter asks if I would stop what I am doing when she is talking to me so she knows I am listening. I chide myself for her having to ask. I know better. It is the very thing I teach others to do!
My son challenges me to think through the fears I experience when he and I talk about stressful subjects. Ugh! Why am I afraid? I help people to work through their fears, and here I am held up by mine.
My wife is trying to help me on a project and I get short with her because she keeps interrupting my work on a separate project. Why are there times I am so impatient?
Rarely am I in tension with another where I don’t also experience an opportunity for personal refinement. The question is: will I be honest with myself about it and seek to change? If so, I can become a better husband/parent/friend/etc to those around me and create a more peaceful atmosphere.
3. It is an opportunity to reaffirm your love for each other.
There is a proverb that says: “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out” Proverbs 17:14 (NIV). The next time you find yourself at odds with your spouse, STOP!
Now think: do you really want to talk to her in a hurtful way like that? Do you really want to scorn and shame him with your tone? Doing so may feel good at the moment, but only add to the spiraling destruction in your marriage.
Now think some more. Think about how you first grew to love your spouse. What was it about him or her that drew you together? Deep down inside you love her – or at least you want to. And deep down inside she loves you too.
You stand at a crossroads. You can default back to your regular way of fighting, or you can do something different and reaffirm your love for each other. That “something” will look different for each couple. Maybe you need to humble yourself and apologize for the way you were speaking or what you said. Maybe you need to let go of something and forgive. Perhaps you both take some time apart to cool down and pray, asking God to show you your part in what went wrong. I know that’s not easy – but it is right and good. Ask Him to change your heart and bring it in line with His.
Seize the opportunity to reaffirm your love NOW by choosing to do what is right rather than just what feels good. It is a must for love to deepen over a lifetime.
What else would be helpful to keep in mind when we find ourselves at odds with our spouse?
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