Handling the key moment during conflict

I hear quite a few stories of women, both married and unmarried, who tell me how arguments get heated in their relationships.  Their husband says something critical, and they dish it right back at him.  Their boyfriend says something unkind, and they lash right back at him.  In both cases, arguments quickly evolve into a really ugly war because neither one paused before responding.  Pausing is one of the most important moments in any relationship!  It is the KEY moment!

The Bible says in Proverbs 12:18  “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”   It is SO important to pause instead of reacting with reckless words!  So the next time you feel your temper about to erupt, pause for 5 or 10 seconds.  Ask God to show you in that moment how He wants you to respond. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what will likely happen if you say what you feel like saying in this tense moment!  (Usually, the Holy Spirit will show me that those words I was about to say will cause some serious damage in the relationship!)  You may even need to leave the room during this pause.

By the way, if you’re texting back and forth with your guy, you may need to put down your cell phone and pray before you text back!!  Remember, once those words have been voiced in person or typed in on your text, you can’t take them back.  “Pausing” is one of your best friends in any relationship!

Choosing your battles in marriage!

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Although the primary message of this saying is that mom’s attitude affects the whole family, I think a secondary message is just as significant.  If a wife conveys to her husband through her constant complaints and criticisms that she’s not happy, her husband begins to feel like a failure and starts to close his heart to her.

Unfortunately, many wives get stuck in this dynamic.  We tend to point out one disappointment after another to our husbands.  We remind him that we notice he forgot to take out the garbage.  We point out that he hasn’t communicated in our love language recently.  We remind him that he hasn’t played with the kids in a while.  In short, we can’t seem to resist pointing out his flaws.  Adding insult to injury, we then get really upset that he seems emotionally withdrawn from us!

Perhaps it’s time to pick our battles more carefully.  Maybe we should let the small stuff slide.  Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”  Let’s ask God to help us affirm what our husbands do right, overlook the small imperfections, and only confront our husbands if they are truly sinning against us and/or the children. EVERYBODY in the family will be happier!

3 things to consider when angry with husband

Does your mouth often cause trouble between you and your husband (or between you and other people)?  If you’re one of many women who end up “venting” on their husband or saying harsh words you later regret, God’s Word gives us 3 clues on how we can respond appropriately when we start to feel our anger rising.

1)  Pause.  Just stop.  Leave the room for a moment if you need to.  Don’t react in the moment because your gut-level reaction will almost always cause trouble!  James 1:19 puts it this way, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  So pause before you react verbally.

2)  During the pause, consult the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand how to love and respect your husband with your response.  Would your husband be positively impacted by a gentle and encouraging word from you?  Would your husband be more willing to make changes that you’re requesting if you showed him respect by asking him to help you understand his perspective?  Philippians 2:4 says “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”

3)  When you’re ready to address the issue with your husband, say a silent prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to be the one speaking to your husband by using your mouth.  Trust me. The Holy Spirit will come up with much better words than you ever could, and will utter those words in a much more respectful way!  When speaking to his disciples, Jesus said in Matthew 10:19-20, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

A game-changer during marriage conflict!

Conflict and disagreement is inevitable in marriage.  However, conflict need not lead to the formation of two enemy camps!  Here’s something that can greatly change the dynamics during conflict and actually move you closer to resolution.  Pause and ask God to help you see the situation through your husband’s eyes. Ask the Lord to show you what is truly prompting your husband to say what he’s saying or do what he’s doing. Is he stressed?  Is he discouraged?  Is he still affected by emotional wounds from his childhood?  Does he simply have a different idea on how something should be done, and could his idea actually make sense?

When we intentionally pause and try to consider the vantage point of our husbands, we begin to have compassion, or at least an understanding of why he is thinking or acting the way he is. Instead of only focusing on our desires, Philippians 2:4 instructs us, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When you truly stop and try to look at the situation from his perspective, you may see some actual merit to your husband’s point of view!  You might also start to realize how your husband’s past hurts in life (or current fears) are playing a role in his actions or reactions.

When we ask Jesus to help us see the situation through our husband’s eyes, we start to soften and feel compassion.  As we have compassion and understanding, it will be much easier to compromise or find resolution.  Try it!

How to confront husband with concerns

In an ideal world, a wife would never have to confront her husband about some kind of disrespectful, destructive, or just plain immoral behavior.  However, we live in a fallen world, and both men and women can easily stray into sinful choices that hurt the people they love.

If you are a wife who is ready to confront your husband over some kind of wrong behavior, here’s what not to do!   Don’t treat him like he’s the enemy.  Don’t give him that look says “you disgust me”.  Don’t scold him like he’s a 3 year-old child.  Don’t roll your eyes.

Instead, as you’re bringing up the issue that is causing you distress, let your husband know that you are for him and your marriage.  A man will shut down if he feels his wife is against him.  A man will tune his wife out if she is disrespectful.  The Bible says “the wife must respect her husband” in Ephesians 5:33, and this is critical when a wife addresses issues of concern with her husband.  Let your man know that you love him and want to work with him as his partner to overcome the challenge.  Speak gently and encourage him by reminding him of his good qualities.  If he knows you are truly for him, he will be much more apt to listen to what you’re saying instead of shutting you out or flying into a rage.

Oh, and one more tip.  To help make sure he doesn’t get super defensive, start out by asking this gentle question: “Help me understand why….”  When you ask him that instead of starting out with strong accusations, he will be much more likely to talk calmly with you!

You must do this during disagreements

It’s vital for you and your spouse to come into agreement on the major issues within your marriage, such as finances, parenting, time spent on recreation, frequency of sex, etc.  You must come into agreement because division in a marriage often leads to the eventual collapse of that marriage.  God’s word even states this.  In Matthew 12:25, Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

So, what should you do if you and your spouse are consistently divided in a specific area?  Don’t just throw your hands up in the air and give up!  Decide to respectfully, but thoroughly, discuss the issue with your husband.  Ask God for the right timing and ask God to prepare your heart and your husband’s heart for the conversation ahead.  The goal is to reach a compromise that you can both support.  And, if you can’t reach such a compromise on your own, then seek help from a pastor, counselor, or mentor couple.  Do whatever you need to do to come into agreement with your husband on this issue.  It will bring peace to you, your marriage, and your household!

P.S.  If the disagreement stems from your husband wanting to do something immoral, then compromise isn’t the right option!  In that case, you will likely want to see help from a counselor or pastor, and you may have to establish boundaries in the relationship.

Overcoming fear of confronting & setting boundaries

I have seen so many women wither and die emotionally in their marriages because their husband is engaged in disrespectful or sinful behavior and the wife gives up too easily in terms of confrontation.  (I should know because I was one of those women in my first marriage!)  So why would a wife give up?  I believe it boils down to one main fear.

The wife fears that if she continues to confront the issue, or heaven forbid, draw a serious boundary, her husband may decide to leave her…and in her mind, she will lose what’s supposed to make her happy and secure.  But this is faulty thinking!  Your husband is not a reliable source of happiness.  God is the only one we can depend on for unconditional love, compassion, and security.  If your husband were to leave after you draw a line in the sand, I believe God is big enough to take care of you financially.  I know He is.  Do you trust Him?  Do you believe what He says in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”?

Trust in the One who will never leave your side.  Trust in the One who can provide innovative ways to take care of your financial needs.  Trust in the One who can bring supportive people into your life to stand by you as you draw boundaries.  That One is Jesus.

— or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO HERE

Becoming a less fearful, more confident wife

Do you lack confidence in handling disrespectful or sinful behavior by your husband (or boyfriend)?  If so, there are some common reasons.  Perhaps you avoid conflict because you grew up in a home filled with rage and verbal abuse.  Maybe you’re so insecure about your own worth that you can’t stand up for yourself if your husband is treating your poorly.  However, you need to recognize this truth.  If you remain insecure and scared of confrontation, it’s likely nothing will ever change in your marriage.  You’ll keep getting what you’re getting right now.

There is a solution.  First, ask God to give you courage to confront any sinful behavior in your marriage.  He will be glad to answer that prayer! Throughout the Bible, God continually tells his people to be strong and courageous.  In fact in Joshua 1:9, God says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Helpful hint:  When I need courage, I ask God’s Holy Spirit to be the one who actually does the confrontation.  I ask Him to simply use me as his mouthpiece.

If insecurity is the issue for you, then ask God to reveal your true worth and identity in His eyes.  Meditating on what God says in Zephaniah 3:17 is a good place to start.  He says, “The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you.  He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.”  In addition, take a moment to close your eyes and ask God to speak one word into your mind about how He views you.  You will likely be amazed at the loving, encouraging word He has for you.  You may hear the word “beautiful” or “chosen” or “adorable” or “strong”….

What conflict avoiders need to know!

I’m an expert conflict avoider.  How about you?  I grew up in a household where there was a lot of yelling and rage and verbal abuse.  As a result, everything within me tries desperately to avoid anything in my marriage that could result in tension, raised voices, or anything remotely resembling conflict.

However, avoiding conflict is a recipe for disaster in a marriage.  I learned that the hard way in my first marriage, which failed.  Here’s the thing.  If you don’t address the things that are really bothering you about your husband or your marriage, a seed of bitterness is planted in your heart.  That seed slowly takes root and grows, and after months and years go by, you will most likely grow to despise your husband and want a divorce!  Not good.

So, let’s commit to respectfully, lovingly, and diligently address the things that are bothering us within our marriages.  Hebrews 12:15 warns us not to let “any bitter root grow up among you to cause trouble…”  So, ask God to give you the courage to gently and respectfully discuss your concerns with your husband.  Ask God to give you the courage to express your needs and desires to your husband.  Do not become invisible.  When you start stuffing your feelings and immediately cave in during disagreements, toxic resentment will start to grow inside you. Don’t let that happen!

Leave room for the Holy Spirit to work

The other day, a relative said some things about a person I love that I really found hurtful.  My first instinct was to emotionally withdraw from that person…but that’s a dysfunctional behavior I’m trying to end.  So, I started to tell that person what I really thought about his comments!  Thank God, the Holy Spirit gently stopped me.

You see, sometimes God wants us to confront someone who is sinning against us or doing something wrong.  But other times, God wants us to step back and allow His Holy Spirit to do the convicting in that other person’s heart, especially if that person is a believer.  In John 16:7-8, Jesus tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”   Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, and he explained that one of the Spirit’s jobs is to convict people of sin.

What I’m learning is that I need to pause and consult God when someone is doing something that wounds me or bothers me.  I need to ask God for direction.  Does God want me to respectfully and lovingly confront that person, or does God want me to step back and allow His Holy Spirit to do the confronting.

Back to my story. When God stopped me from laying into my relative the other day and I decided to leave the “confrontation” up to the Holy Spirit…that relative actually came to me and apologized within a few hours. Today’s question for you:  Do you pause long enough to get guidance from God before reacting?