4 Steps to Resolving Marital Conflict

Marriage is the union of two sinners. Each one comes to the equation with a long list of flaws.

We have our own opinions, beliefs, values and upbringing that form who we are. When two come together in a close relationship like marriage, there is absolutely without a doubt going to be conflict!

Is Conflict Wrong?

Sometimes when conflict arises in a marriage, we think something is wrong.

We want to fix it and get it over with, or hide from it so we can be on our happy way again.

If we can adjust our mindset to understanding that conflict itself is not bad, but that it’s our ability to resolve it that that is key in keeping our relationship strong and healthy.

Everyone has conflict. Not everyone knows how to resolve it.

Dave Wilson

I will be the first to admit that I do not handle conflict well. I avoid it at all costs. So when the topic of conflict resolution came up at our small group marriage study, I was all ears.

I learned some important principles and helpful tools that I’d like to share with you.

As I formulate these words onto this page, it helps solidify it in my own brain and I know it will help me implement these steps into my own marriage.

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn a small commission off of products I support on this site.

The study we are doing is from Family Life, a ministry striving to help families find hope within their marriage and parenting.

There is a wealth of resources on their site and radio program on numerous topics.

The new hosts of the radio program, Dave and Ann Wilson, are co-authors of the book and study guide, Vertical Marriage, with an accompanying video for the study.

What’s Your Style?

The first thing to consider, is to think about how you currently handle conflict. Here are four ways discussed in the study.

  1. Win – Do you desire to win every battle? Do you show up with proof and evidence of why you are right, and demand to fight this thing out until you have “won”?
  2. Yield – Perhaps you don’t feel the need to win, you just want to get on with life, so you yield to the other person. You let them win.
  3. Withdraw – While similar to yield, you avoid the issues at hand. You may be fuming on the inside, but retreat and sulk privately.
  4. Resolve – You want to come up with a solution to this conflict. You may not have the need to win, but you know that you both win when the issue is resolved.

What type are you?

I am definitely one to withdraw and completely shut down. Check out.

If I am in this state, my kids will get blank stares and short replies from me. I have nothing to give out, because I am hashing over the conflict over and over in my brain.

Life is sucked out of me at the moment. My energy is being poured into this secret conversation I am having in my head that I’d like to just blurt out, but am afraid of what might happen if I did.

I don’t want to bring it up. I sulk, ignore, avoid.

Root Issue

Isn’t it funny sometimes when you think about what brought the conflict or argument on in the first place?

It could be a minor, insignificant issue and you wonder, “What went wrong?!”.

Take a deeper look. Try and get a better understanding of what is going on.

With emotions set aside, what is truly the root cause of this conflict?

If we stop, think and recognize the real root issue, it may allow for better understanding.

Dave and Ann’s Story

Dave and Ann share in their video a story of how he was the pastor of a new church. She was running late and found a perfect parking spot, right in front.

She believed Jesus gave her that spot.

Dave, however, was mortified that she would park there.

It had been a decision for all church family and staff to park in the back, so visitors could have those front spots.

His anger flared at her and she retaliated. They fought over this, until they realized what the root cause was.

Deep down, Ann believed Dave loved the church more than her.

At that moment, they were able to then take steps to resolve the issue.

4 Steps to Resolving Conflict

1. Shut up and Listen

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

James 1:19

Read that verse slowly. Each phrase is powerful. Hard to live by, but what a difference it would make if we did!

We don’t need to prove ourselves. We don’t need to make our point.

Our spouse is not going to accept it anyway if we are in a state of anger or defensiveness.

Stop. Be quiet, and truly listen to what your spouse has to say.

2. Soft Answer

A gentle answer turns away wrath,

    but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Instead of escalating, push pause. Deescalate instead. Respond gently.

This goes against every grain of self preservation we have inside of us. I get that!

However, it changes everything. Who can stay mad at someone who is gentle?

Focus on your husband. Let your spouse know he really matters.

3. Seek and grant forgiveness

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

Yes, my friend, the ultimate step in humble obedience is forgiveness.

Not just when we feel like it. Not just when our husband has apologized or we think he deserves it.

We forgive because Christ forgave us. We didn’t deserve it. It was by His grace we are saved. Completely.

We also seek our husband’s forgiveness. This means, we (gulp), admit we were at least partially wrong.

Maybe even a little more than partially wrong.

I’m not sure which is harder, to forgive or seek forgiveness. Both require a humble, grace-filled attitude that can only come from Christ.

4. Surrender

Finally, we surrender to Jesus.

We give up our right to be right and allow Jesus to enter the situation and help us come to the point of surrender.

We wave our white flag.

We trust Jesus to bring about the best in this situation. We know He is growing us and maturing us through each and every conflict and struggle we face.

Marriage is the only institution in the world where you can win every battle but lose the war.

Tim and Joy Downs, Fight Fair

Now What?

It’s easy to read these steps and say, “That sounds great. I’ll try to do better,” only to put them in the back of our mind and forget.

We were given 10 minutes to discuss this topic with our spouse privately. My husband and I realized how often we let little things get to us.

We allow them to grow and fester until it oozes out in passive aggressiveness or an explosion of anger.

Putting it into practice

We agreed, that to avoid this, we needed to discuss these little matters in advance before they escalate.

Neither one of us is real great at accepting criticism.

We decided together that our weekly date nights would be a perfect time for each of us to share an issue we have with the other or life in general that is bugging us.

Knowing the conversation is coming, will help prepare us. We can lower our defenses and come prepared to listen and understand.

By having these conversations a little at a time, we hope to put an end to the ridiculous outbursts that seem to appear out of nowhere!

How about you?

How are you going to implement these steps? Can you meet with your spouse and discuss these matters?

Do you have a weekly date night you can discuss little matters before they escalate?

Remember, you don’t have to leave your house to qualify it as a date.

Setting aside time for just the two of you to hang out, have fun and enjoy each other can happen at home too, it just takes a little more creativity.

If you need motivation or encouragement to make this happen, please get my free PDF resource!

Remember the 4 S’s

These steps to resolving conflict should be easy to remember – Shut up, Soft answer, Seek/grant forgiveness, and Surrender. Let’s start today to resolve conflict a little better than yesterday!

Before you go

If you have children in your life please do them a favor and pray for them! This is a harsh world, and they need Jesus to direct them and help them!

I have 24 Prayer cards that have prayers written out for you. You just need to insert their name.

You can be praying for 24 different Christ-like Character traits like peace, gentleness, forgiveness, diligence, kindness, etc.

Don’t just preach to them about how to act, pray for their hearts to change and become more like Jesus. As you do, you will likely become more like Him too. Check out the resource here.

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