By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. In a marriage, however, it can be detrimental to your relationship's health if your conflicts end up unresolved. Spouses who want to make a marriage work must put in adequate time and emotional investment, which includes resolving conflict to the best of their abilities. Even better, once they get to know their partners, they can nip conflict in the bud so that arguments don't arise and put a damper on a healthy relationship. But just as marriage is hard work, so is resolving conflict. Some couples simply don't know what to do when it comes to resolving conflict. Here are five better ways to handle conflict in a marriage:
1. Take it to the Lord
The most important thing a couple can do is pray for their marriage. Couples pray individually, but how often do they pray together? Couples dedicated to the Lord will find even ten minutes to pray together each day. Whether it's in the morning before each goes off to work or at night before each goes to sleep. Furthermore, this should be an addition to individual prayer time. We often present God with our prayer requests like a genie in a bottle. But we often forget to start off with a heart of worship, praising God simply for who he is, not what he does. When was the last time we brought our hearts to the Lord, crying out to him with our heart's deep needs and desires? God knows it all anyway. Allow God to meet our needs in the ways only he can. The most intimate experiences with God in your life will be during prayer time. This can be either pouring your heart out to him and feeling close to him in his presence or hearing him speak to your heart. Present your requests to the Lord and then step back and watch the Lord work. You both might be surprised to find what God does when only you ask him.
2. Take a Rest
If, as a couple, you find you are frequently arguing, permit yourself to take a rest from each other. This does not mean legal separation but rather a rest from the conflict. Tell each other you will not speak to the other for a mutually agreed-upon time. This will allow you to process the situation privately and also not say anything in retaliation.
God invented rest. Rest was a part of God's design. Genesis 2:2 speaks to this when God rested after the 6th day of doing work: "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."
This was before the fall, so rest is a natural part of the working order of life. This includes every area of our lives, including our marriages. It is difficult, however, to find rest in a marriage when you're with someone every day. Do your best to separate yourselves for a couple of days to take a break from each other. If you can, sleep in different beds and spend most of your time in different rooms in the home. The saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true. If you are struggling with your spouse, take a break from them. You will find you will want to come back to resolve the conflict because you miss each other. If you don't miss each other's company, it may be time for a counselor.
3. Talk it Out
Sometimes couples end in arguments without really talking about the situation. Set a designated time and a private area where you can hash things out. Talk about everything, how you feel about each other, the current state of your marriage, etc. Leave nothing out. Agree not to get angry or emotional but simply allow the other to speak. Make it a safe space where each can speak their mind without fear of character assassinations or blame. Discover together what the real issues are in the marriage. Then seek to resolve them. Don't take it personally, as you haven't done your job as a spouse, but rather there is a problem that needs to be resolved.
4. Get a Mediator
Sometimes, couples simply can't work it out themselves. They need a third party's help to see things from a new perspective. Additionally, some couples can't see the more profound need rooted within the issue. A counselor can help discover the underlying issue and seek and give practical tips and strategies and how to meet those needs. It is not productive to simply go around in circles in your conflict. It is better to understand the other couple's woundedness and needs and do your best to meet those needs. When you are confident you are doing all you can to be the best spouse in the relationship, give the rest to God. He will meet the needs that you simply cannot. Sometimes those needs stem from childhood trauma, and those traumatic events need to be processed efficiently.
5. Fast from Each Other
While it is permissible for couples to fast from each other sexually because they want to pray and fast, resolving a conflict peacefully that is mutually respectful to both parties is a great reason to fast from sex. When couples are in conflict, the last thing they want to do is engage in meaningful sexual relations. Both parties feel wounded and used, and sex does not help the situation. By fasting from sex for a mutually agreed upon time and using that time to pray and fast over your marriage, when you come together, the time will be equally fulfilling because both of you agreed to deprive yourself sexually for a time to put the other person's needs first.
Conflict is difficult in any relationship. But it is especially challenging in marriage. If it goes unresolved for too long, it can cause a strain on the relationship, and both parties can consider separation and divorce as a result. This is not the mirror of Christ and his church God wants for his children. To honor the vows you made before God on your wedding day, commit to working through your conflict no matter how difficult it may be. Whether it's a simple distribution of chores or something more complex by infidelity, your marriage is worth your best efforts to work through the conflict. Do your best to listen and ask clarifying questions to your partner to identify any needs you can meet for them. If you are doing everything you can to meet their needs effectively, give it over to God. He has the biggest picture of what's going on and can work on your behalf if only you'll let him. By working through conflict, you not only honor your marriage but also honor each other.
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.
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