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 always tried desperately to avoid anything in my marriage that could have resulted 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, commit to respectfully, lovingly, and diligently address the things that are bothering you within your marriage. 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!
There’s a golden phrase I discovered many years ago. When I started using it, I found it helped prevent my husband from getting defensive when I was upset or frustrated about something he had said or done. Instead of accusing him of doing something wrong, I learned to kindly and sincerely ask this question: “Help me understand why…”
This simple question prevents the monster of defensiveness from raising its ugly head. By asking your husband to “help me understand”, you’re communicating two things to your husband. 1) You really do care about his perspective and feelings, and 2) You’re acknowledging there may actually be a legitimate reason for why he did or said whatever. At least, you’re giving him a chance to explain himself before you start arguing with him or condemning him!!
By asking your husband to help you understand his behavior or perspective, you’re avoiding a foolish argument. Proverbs 18:2 says “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” By asking your husband to help you understand his perspective, you’re pleasing both God and your husband by living out the instructions in Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should consider not only your own interests, but also the interests of others.”
Try this phrase when you sense a potential ugly argument is headed your way. You can not only use this phrase with your husband, but with your children, your in-laws, your co-workers, your boss, and more. Again, the phrase (actually a question) is….”Help me understand why…”
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, over the years of my marriage to Raul, I didn’t always obey that instruction and my disobedience was almost disastrous! One occasion comes to mind as a good example. 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 went to bed by myself, wrapped in a blanket of resentment, bitterness, and ugly thoughts about my husband. As I lay there steaming, that resentment started morphing into thoughts such as “I’d be better off without him” and “He’s such a jerk. I’m going to be cold as ice toward him from now on.”
I am so thankful the Holy Spirit finally broke through and 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.