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.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships. In marriage it is the sign of a wife having a pulse rate and a husband having a pulse rate – and the two of you are trying to share a life under the same roof.
Someone once said (I wish it would have been me) that if two spouses agree on every single thing, politically, theologically, and philosophically – no difference of opinion on anything – one of you is unnecessary. What a statement! You need each other’s difference. There is value in the difference; but it is in the difference where the conflict arises.If two spouses agree on every single thing, then one of you is unnecessary. Click To Tweet
Lots can be covered in the area of conflict, but for today, let’s focus on just one: results.
Here are three results when you and your spouse have a conflict:
1. Capitulation. This result can be a rather quick fix if each spouse is honest with him/herself. An example can be a husband who tells his wife, “Honey, as soon as I told that joke on you and I saw how embarrassed you were, I knew I was out of line. I apologize. Will you forgive me?” Or the wife who says, “I know we’ve not agreed on where we are spending the holidays – your parents or mine. I’ve thought about it and let’s go to yours.”
The husband who apologized or the wife who agreed to go to his parents for the holidays – they capitulated. They let the other person win or gave in. “We’ll do it your way.”
A word of caution: If it’s the same spouse always giving in to every disagreement or apologizing, that’s a dysfunctional situation. Sometimes it needs to be your spouse going along with you. However, you are not perfect. Sometimes you need to go along with her idea or say you’re sorry to her. It’s not about keeping score. Just have an open mind as you talk that you could be the one holding things up. Get over yourself, capitulate and get on with life. Some conflict isn’t worth a 3-hour argument.
2. Compromise. Compromise is perhaps the best of these results to see the marriage team’s identity clearly emerge. Compromise is saying, “I can’t do what you are asking, but I can come this far. Can you give any at all?” And back and forth you go till a settlement is achieved.Compromise is saying, 'I can’t do what you are asking, but I can come this far. Can you give any at all?' Click To Tweet
In labor-management negotiations this process is called “bargaining in good faith.” They offer something, trusting that the other side will give some as well, and eventually an agreement is reached through compromise. It is the same with a marital issue. You give some on your side of the issue, trusting and hoping some common ground can be found. When it is found, the team has won!
3. Coexist. On occasions, there are times when neither side has suppressed the issue. Both spouses have gotten the issue on the table, yet you and your mate have both dug in your heels and no one is budging. It’s a wife telling her husband, “Honey, it’s 13 o’clock, we’ve talked about this issue for three hours. I have nothing left to give on this.”
So you’re at a stalemate. An impasse. Let’s agree to disagree.
And that’s okay … for a while. It’s a legitimate result of conflict, but it’s unhealthy if it stays in this mode. When you are log-jammed and cannot reach a mutually accepted solution, this is where you might seek a peacemaker. Someone who can help you navigate through these muddy waters.
Along with seeking a third perspective in the coexist state, you need to pray urgently. And here’s how you don’t pray: “Lord please get through my husband’s thick skull that I’m right.” Or, “Lord, show my wife how obviously right and I and how wrong she is. Help her see the light, Lord!”
No, you pray about yourself. You pray, “Lord, You know there is a wall creeping up between my spouse and me, and You want us to be one. So, if needed, change my heart on this issue. I am open to You.”
You wake up a couple of days later and say to your mate, “I’ve prayed about this and we need to do it your way.” (capitulation) Or, “I’ve prayed about this and I can make this change. I’m willing to come this far.” (compromise)
The point is to see the coexist result as a temporary one. Pray, seek some outside help, but press on toward resolution. It might take some work, but the Lord indeed wants you to be unified.
Plus, working together to resolve conflict as a team can make your marriage sturdier for the long haul. (You know, that part that says, “as long as you both shall live”?) It’s Romans 8:28 kicking in again. He works in all things for good. All things, even the unsettling nature of conflict that will find it’s way into your marriage.
Other Marriage Resources:
- 3 Ways Conflict Hinders Intimacy in Your Marriage
- How to Move from Anger to Intimacy in Marriage – Selma on Leadership Podcast #012
- A Marriage-Changing Covenant for Processing Anger