Rodney Wilson is a regular guest post writer on Selma on Leadership. Rodney has been a marriage and family pastor/counselor for almost 20 years. Rodney and Selma have been married for 40 years and they have spoken and written on marriage and family issues for most of their married life.
Blog Post by Rodney A. Wilson
A young lady who had been married 2 years recently told me that marriage is hard work. From an infant marriage comes amazing wisdom. It is hard work. One of the reasons is the wall that is constantly waiting to creep up between you and your spouse.
It is the wall of distance. It is caused by the mishandling of conflict. This wall can subtly erode or openly shatter your intimacy. You have to fight together to keep this wall from forming. This is part of why marriage is hard work. You don’t coast your way to a great marriage. There is always the potential for the wall to build between the two of you, hindering marital intimacy at every level.
The familiar biblical passage tells us, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26b HCSB). Usually we look at that as an encouragement to surface the anger and deal with it. Correct, but let’s also look at how you don’t let the sun set on your issues.
Here are 3 ways the mishandling of conflict can hinder the intimacy in your relationship:
1. Unaddressed conflict. Some people wish conflict and anger would just go away. Maybe they are not as argumentative as their spouse. Or maybe the wife is a golden retriever and their husband is a lion. For whatever reason they stuff. They ignore the conflict and temporarily sweep it under the rug. Issue by issue they stuff.
The problem? You can only stuff a volcano so long. It will erupt. Sometimes it erupts in the form of an affair. Sometimes it is an emotional outburst of personal attack on the other mate. Sometimes it happens with the other spouse never knowing there was an issue.
Unaddressed conflict builds the wall in a stealth mode. It slowly creeps up without warning, eroding the relationship. I have counseled many married couples who regularly have sex but without intimacy. This is because of the wall that has subtly built.
So fight this attack on your marital health! Get your differences on the table. Stop the stuffing! Talk about what’s going on. Seek some help in how to start addressing your issues. So you have conflict and anger in your relationship? Welcome to the marriage club! Don’t panic – rather do something rather than letting the wall build.
2. Unresolved conflict. Conflict can still build the wall at this stage. No, you haven’t stuffed the issue. You just haven’t reached an agreement on what to do with it. This is a dangerous place to be with your conflict as it can give the illusion that everything is fine. For example, a husband can think, “We’ve talked about what’s bothering her, so it’s all good now.” Not always. Just because it’s on the table doesn’t mean it’s resolved. You both need to have some kind of clarity that the difference has been settled.
Getting it on the table is an excellent start that needs to be done. Good so far, but the follow through is essential to prevent the wall from building.
This is where a peacemaker (a counselor, pastor, trusted friend) can be of tremendous help. Both spouses have dug in their heels and are not giving an inch. Sometimes that outside perspective can help loosen the logjam, thus tearing down the wall of distance.
3. Conflict overkill. Then there are spouses who absolutely love a good fight! They are the argumentative type and cannot wait for the next round with their mate. These are the kind who go for the victory, doing whatever it takes to get the “w”.
Ever hear of winning the battle and losing the war? This is the case study for that old saying. An overly zealous spouse in the arena of conflict is the one who is laying mortar to the wall of distance without even knowing it. Oh the other spouse knows for sure but Rambo does not.
Guess what? If you win and your spouse loses, the team loses. Let’s define “sides” for a moment. You and your spouse are on the same side. You are teammates and you do not attack your teammate for a simple battle win. Rather, after you have established there is conflict between you two, cool off for a while. Then after 5, 10 maybe 20 minutes, come back together and talk – not shout – about your issue. You will find yourselves attacking the problem rather than your teammate, a much healthier approach. You will also come closer to resolving the issue and tearing down the beginnings of another wall.Guess what? If you win and your spouse loses, the team loses. Click To Tweet
Yes, marriage is work… hard work at times. Well worth the effort but work nonetheless. Check your own marriage for the subtle signs of a creeping wall. Are you handling conflict well? Do what it takes to keep the intimacy, the closeness in your marriage. A strong marriage team awaits you!Are you handling conflict well? Do what it takes to keep the intimacy, the closeness in your marriage. Click To Tweet
Other Marriage Resources:
- How to Move from Anger to Intimacy in Marriage – Selma on Leadership Podcast #012
- A Marriage-Changing Covenant for Processing Anger