Keeping a Marriage Together

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  – Ephesians 5:31

weddingConflict never destroys a marriage; it is the refusal to resolve conflict that dooms your hopes and leaves your marriage in shambles. Every marriage is threatened by disagreements.  That’s the result of being human, of being fully alive, of looking at life through different eyes, of coming together from different backgrounds.  Two individuals–like two great rivers which merge–are bound to experience turbulence.  That’s inevitable.

Men and women, however, approach conflict resolution from totally different vantage points, expecting the other to respond as would another man or another woman.  Frankly, men don’t understand women and neither do women understand men.  Nowhere is that more obvious than how we want to resolve disagreements.  Men can yell and scream–something that never resolves anything–but then think that if they can kiss and have physical contact, everything is fine!  Issue settled.

On the other hand, the last thing in the world women want to do is kiss or be intimate until the issue is really resolved.  There are four hindrances to conflict resolution which you need to be aware of.

Barrier #1:  Minimalization. 

“How could my wife be so upset over the fact that I’m going fishing with the guys this weekend?  What’s the big deal?,” you think.  You forgot that it was her birthday, and when her sister’s birthday rolls around, her husband throws a big party for her.  But you go fishing.  Sure, you sent flowers later, but they died and after a few days they smelled along with her memory of what you did.  Acknowledging that something is a problem to someone else, not minimizing it, is one of the keys to effective conflict resolution.

marriage-conflictBarrier #2: Rationalization.

“I can’t help being addicted to the use of credit cards,” you say, explaining that you grew up deprived of nice things so now you just can’t help it when you see something you want.  Rationalization refuses to accept blame for wrongdoing.  Instead of the attitude, “I am responsible!  I have sinned.  I am fully to blame,” we shrug our shoulders and dance around the issue.  Face the full weight of your differences.

Barrier #3:  Avoidance.

You say, “Every time we get into a discussion about this, it turns into an argument,” so you avoid the subject; yet the issue smolders beneath the surface.  Unresolved conflict is like a baby–the more you nurse it, the bigger it gets.  Confronting conflict is absolutely necessary to find forgiveness and healing.

Barrier #4: Quasi-half-hearted-apologies.

Saying, “Sorry!” or “I guess I shouldn’t have done that,” may add sting to an open wound.  It may be worse than saying nothing at all, which is inexcusable.  But to say, “I am truly sorry for what I did, and I accept full responsibility for my failure.  I’ve asked God to forgive me, and I hope that you can as well because I assure you I will never, ever fail you like this again,” is completely different.

weddingRecently I heard of a minister who had rewritten the traditional wedding ceremony.  Lifting out the phrase “until death shall separate us,” he replaced it with the innocuous phrase “as long as you both shall agree!”  Hey, the promise to love, honor, and cherish “as long as you both shall agree” may not last until you get out of the parking lot of the chapel where you took your vows, and it’s sure not to last through the honeymoon.

Remember, conflict never destroys a marriage; it is your refusal to resolve conflict which ultimately destroys it.  Marriage is a union of two independent and imperfect people–all of which God knew when He gave us the model and blueprint.  Remember, He was the designer and architect of the whole thing.  It is still His plan for two to become one, uniting their hearts and lives in this imperfect but marvelous relationship we call marriage.

Resource reading: Ephesians 5:15-32

This devotional © by Harold J. Sala.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission from Guidelines International Ministries. Not for sale or profit.

Dr. Harold J. Sala
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