It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! Today I want to contrast peace and lack of conflict.
We’ve been talking a ton about sex lately, and in February my 29 Days to Great Sex series is starting (Update: you can read it now!). So I thought before we launched into that, it would be a good idea to take a look at a more fundamental issue in marriage that people often ask me about.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about prioritizing your marriage, and asked readers to leave questions for me that they wanted me to address about marriage. One woman wrote:
How can we keep the peace without burying issues or withdrawing? That has been a trick for me. Exactly what extent of withdrawing from an overheated discussion to keep peace is okay?
Excellent question. If I could rephrase her question, it would be this:
When we have a really big conflict that isn’t getting resolved, should I just let it go, or can I take steps to do something about it?
That’s something that I think all of us have faced at some point in our marriages. And I want to reiterate here that peace is a marriage is not the same thing as lack of conflict. Many of us are aiming for a lack of conflict in a marriage. I have had people say to me: “My spouse and I have never had a fight.” Now for a very small minority that may be true on substance as well as on depth, but to me that’s a trigger. That means that somebody has likely been burying their feelings. Because let’s face it: when two people come together, there is going to be some conflict. We are not all the same.
It’s like two rivers meeting. Where they meet the water is all stirred up, but then after that initial meeting, the water blends together nicely. So peace is possible, but often only after conflict. Only after you work things out.
And that working out is a continual process, because we grow, our life circumstances change, new decisions need to made. My husband and I do not fight nearly the way we did in our first years of marriage, or even five years ago. In fact, we rarely do fight. But every now and then I will get so ticked at him, or he at me, and we’ll have to sit down and work it out.
I know one couple who divorced after 6 years of marriage because he had an affair. But the wife told me, “we had never had a fight at all because I just never challenged him on anything. Maybe if I had challenged him earlier things wouldn’t have gotten to this point.”
Lack of conflict in a marriage, then, is not the same as peace.
True peace comes when you feel like you are one; when you feel like you are cherished, and heard. That only happens if you actually address the areas of your marriage which are problems.
However, that doesn’t mean that we should be aiming for World War III. It doesn’t mean we should cause unnecessary conflict. And it doesn’t mean that we need to solve everything all at once. I’m guided by Romans 12:18:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Live at peace. Learn to submit to others, to listen, to care for their needs. But certainly do not suppress things that must be addressed.
Last week, for example, we talked about pornography. If your husband is involved in pornography, and he absolutely refuses to stop, we talked about the steps that you should take, which include seeking outside help. In that vein, a husband who has been there wrote to me in an email and said something to this effect:
The model for conflict resolution in Scripture is found in Matthew 18. When you have a problem with someone, you talk to them. If they refuse to address it, you then go and find someone else who is spiritually mature to go and talk to them together. Somehow we think that applies everywhere else except marriage.
And I think he’s right. If your husband is involved in a real sin, and he won’t stop, you likely need to get some outside help. So here are some things to consider:
1. Choose One Person who is Spiritually Mature
Don’t tell the whole elders’ board. Don’t tell your whole small group. Certainly do not tell your whole family. That is a betrayal of trust. Find one person that you know you both respect, and ask that person to talk to your husband with you. Sometimes that may be a couple, and not just oen person, but find somebody.
Also, realize that when you bring that person in, they may take his side! I have known women who have sought out help because their husbands are horrible fathers, and the couple came in, talked to both, and then informed the wife that she was being too lenient with the kids and was disrespecting her husband. That was actually a healthy thing to have happen.
So please, choose someone who can be neutral, and who may be able to see things from your husband’s point of view, too.
2. Be Wary of What Problems Need this Level of Intervention
I would say that this is the minority of issues in marriage, because this does involve, to a certain extent, a breech of trust. This step needs to be taken when a sin which could jeopardize the marriage or the family is at stake. It isn’t something to do when you’re fighting over who does the housework, or whether he spends too much time playing video games. Here’s another post that can help you work through when you need help.
3. Find a Mentor Couple
A better route for some of these “smaller” problems is to find a mentor couple that you can socialize with and just talk to on a regular basis together. I’ve written about this before, but I think all churches would benefit from setting up a system where couples have someone just to bounce these small things off of.
Now, what if the problem is one of these lesser things, or a combination of lesser things (and often this combination can add up to something which is quite huge). Then what do you do?
1. Work on Your Friendship
It is always easier to address problems if you can laugh together. As much as possible, do things together. Go for walks together. Play games together. Do ANYTHING! Just make sure you can laugh.
2. Bring up One Problem at a Time
Don’t bombard him with everything he’s doing wrong. Bring up one issue at a time, and leave room for him to bring up issues with you, too. Share what you’re feeling, and say things like, “I feel that we aren’t connecting”, rather than “you never spend any time with me.”
3. Concentrate on What You’re Doing Wrong, too
Be open to see what you are doing wrong as well. We all need to change to make a marriage great.
4. Don’t Punish Him
I do believe in letting a person bear the repercussions for their actions, and not enabling them. But I do not believe in withholding something that they are due, just because of who they are, because you’re angry. For instance, when you’re angry with your child, you don’t stop hugging them or loving them. They’re your child.
So when you’re angry with your spouse, don’t stop affection, or even sex, either. That’s due him because of who he is as your husband, not because of what he has done. If you withhold sex, then you see sex as a reward, not as a sign of love that is an integral part of your relationship. There may be times when it’s better to not have sex, if he’s battling a big sexual sin, but on the whole, withholding in this area is a very bad idea.
5. Surround Yourself with God
Go to a women’s Bible study. Read the Scriptures. Put praise music on. Anything! I have just found in my life that the more you concentrate on God, the more others’ faults stop taking such a leading role in your mind. So as you’re in limbo, waiting for your marriage to improve, run to God, and you just may find that a lot of these things stop mattering.
Now it’s your turn: what do you do when you have a big conflict in marriage? How have you handled it? Or do you have something else to share? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Or leave a comment telling me about your methods of conflict resolution. Thanks!