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!

Are you giving the devil this foothold?

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 – 27, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Well….I almost gave the devil just such a foothold in my marriage the other day.  My husband had acted in a way that really bothered me.  I was steaming for hours and couldn’t even bring myself to talk to him about it because I feared we’d get embroiled in a huge conflict.  So, I went to bed early, by myself. 

I am so thankful the Holy Spirit prompted me to get out of bed and go speak with my husband.  I sensed that I was giving the devil a “foothold” in my marriage through me stuffing the issue and letting resentment grow.  So, I went and found my husband in the living room, knelt by his side as he was sitting on the couch and told him that I truly do see so many good qualities in him.  I also told him why his behavior had bothered me. 

I know you’re thinking he agreed with my assessment, but he didn’t!  However, a good thing did happen.  We calmly acknowledged our difference of opinion and I was able to go to sleep in peace.  There was no wedge between me and my husband.  Don’t allow the enemy to gain a foothold in your marriage.  Resist the temptation to go to sleep with simmering anger and resentment.

Aim for this goal during conflict

It’s natural during disagreement with our husbands to believe you’re right, he’s wrong, and you must convince him of that!  However, if we stay stuck in that mindset, the battle only heats up.  He gets defensive.  You get defensive.  Usually, the situation either evolves into yelling and ugly accusations or a silent, but deadly cold war.  There is a better way and it begins with rethinking your end goal.

What if your goal was not to “win” the argument or change his mind?  What if the goal was to reach a compromise or solution that addresses the biggest concerns of you both?  Seriously. Think about it. Now you both win and there are no losers.  This means that you both agree to consider the other person’s perspective, fears, values, and concerns.  From there, you begin to present ideas that might address both of your main concerns.  Philippians 2:4 reminds us “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

So, the next time you and your husband start to have a significant disagreement, suggest that you would like to sit down together and better understand his perspective and concerns.  Then gently share your concerns, and ask him to join you in brainstorming a solution or compromise that would be the best fit for both of you.

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!