Conflict Resolution in Marriage

Faith Church May 25, 1999

Conflict Resolution in Marriage
Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 that it is “inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”  Because of the curse of sin in our lives, each of us is guaranteed to face conflict – somewhere, sometime, we will feel it!   The conflict may be with a family member, co-worker, neighbor, spouse, child, fellow church member, and even a non-believer – but conflict will come.
Paul said that conflict is especially going to be a part of a person’s life who is seeking to be godly.  There is probably no area where conflict is faced more than in our homes, in part, because that is where we are known the best (our strengths and our weaknesses).
We can be encouraged, however, because God’s Word is full of everyday, practical answers for                1) preventing conflicts and 2) for responding to conflict Biblically.  In a world filled with strife and division, often finding its way into the Christian home, we can be a “peacemaker” and learn to handle conflict in a way that pleases God and benefits all those involved.
“Conflict can make life very awkward.  It often catches us off guard and leads us to say or do things we later regret.  When someone offends us, we can react without thinking.  Soon it’s as if we’re sliding down a slippery slope, with things going from bad to worse.”  Ken Sande, Peacemaker Ministries
As we begin this study, let’s commit ourselves to being the kind of person who seeks to solve problems and not create them.

  I.  Important Introductory Ideas

A. Look at your part of the problem(s) first.
Matthew 7:1-5:  "Do not judge lest you be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
1. In your own words, restate Jesus’ point in Matthew 7:1-5.
2. How will looking at your part of the problem help the other person with whom you are trying to resolve the conflict?
3. What are some possible conclusions a person may draw when he/she looks at his/her part of the problem first?

A. Be sure your goal in the conflict is the same as your goal of life.
2 Corinthians 5:9:  “Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
1. What is the “goal of life” according to 2 Corinthians 5:9?

2. How does Romans 8:28-29 help us define that goal more specifically?
Romans 8:28-29:  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.”
3. List things a person might say, do, or think during a conflict that would be inconsistent with the goal of pleasing God by being like Jesus Christ.

A. Place great value on restoring a relationship when conflicts occur.
Galatians 6:1  “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
“If we walked by the Spirit, we would love one another more, and if we loved one another more, we would bear one another’s burdens, and if we bore one another’s burdens, we would not shrink from seeking to restore a brother who has fallen into sin.  Further, if we obeyed this apostolic instruction as we should, much unkind gossip would be avoided, more serious backsliding prevented, the good of the Church advanced, and the name of Christ glorified.”
John Stott, as quoted by James Montgomery Boice, Galatians
“This would restore such an one to his previous communion with the Lord Jesus, which communion had been interrupted by the entrance of sin into the life.  Thus, the Christian brother would be repaired and again fitted out in his Christian life in two respects; first, he would be restored to his former method of living his life, namely, in dependence upon the Spirit, and second, he would be restored to his fellowship with the Lord Jesus.”
Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Galatians In the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1972).
The word “restore” was used to describe the process of mending a broken net or setting a broken bone.  Paul was simply saying that seeking to solve conflicts can actually STRENGTHEN a relationship.
What are some ways that restoring a relationship can actually make a relationship better than it was before the conflict occurred?
B. Recognizing the problem exists.

Please list some common conflicts that occur in marriages

II.  Avoiding Wrong Extremes

A.  “Giving in” to the person without seeking to resolve the conflict.
Definition:  This option is used by a person who would rather “give in” to a wrong solution than to seek to resolve the conflict in a Biblical fashion.
Biblical example: Eli’s response to the wickedness of his sons.
1 Samuel 2:12:  “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD.”
1 Samuel 3:11-13:  “And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.  In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.’”
For additional study:  Read 1 Kings 1:6 concerning King David’s relationship with his son Adonijah.
1. How would the following verses help motivate us to avoid the extreme of simply “giving in” when problems arise?
2 Corinthians 5:10:  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Proverbs 27:6:  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
2. Besides the one in Proverbs 29:25, please list other possible wrong motives or reasons a person might have for choosing to “give in” during times of conflict?

Proverbs 29:25:  “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”
B. “Ignoring” the problem.
Definition:  Pretending a problem doesn’t exist or responding in a way that fails to focus on a Biblical solution.
The way of attempting to solve problems goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve responded in this manner when they sinned against God.
Consider the following ways of “ignoring” problems or avoiding problems:
1.  A person could try to cover up  from the problem.
Genesis 3:7:  “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”
What are some common ways a person could attempt to “cover-up” a problem?
2. A person could try to run from the problem.
Genesis 3:8:  “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
What are some common ways a person may “run” from problems?
3. A person could try to make excuses for sinful behavior.
Genesis 3:9-10:  “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’  And he said, ‘I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’”
What are some common excuses a person can make in an attempt to “ignore” the problem?
4. The ultimate attempt at “ignoring” the problem is to blameshift.
Genesis 3:11-13:  “And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’  And the man said, ‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’  Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”


What might a person be thinking or attempting to accomplish by blameshifting?

In the long run, what are some possible implications in the following areas to attempting to “ignore” a problem?
• Child rearing: 
• Finances:
• Communication:
• Marriage relationship:
C. Trying to be the “Winner” of the conflict.
Definition:  A person who wants to “win” the argument (at all costs) rather than reach a Biblical solution.
1. What examples can you think of where a person was more interested in “winning” the argument than he/she was interested in Biblical truth?  (i.e. classes of people or Biblical examples).
2. What are some ways a person who seeks to be the “winner” will act or think when conflict arises?
3. What does the Word of God have to say about a person who thinks he must be “right” or that others have to see the problem “my way”?
Proverbs 16:18:  “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Proverbs 18:12:  “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”

C. What are your observations about the following chart which describes what we’ve been studying?

III.  Achieving the Right Balance

A.  Ask:  Should I let love cover this?
Proverbs 10:12:  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”
1 Peter 4:8:  “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
Love covering a problem differs from “ignoring” a problem.  A person cannot let love cover when any of the following criteria are true:
1) Is this “offense” a sinful habit that is regularly hindering his/her growth?
2) Is this “offense” public knowledge that would harm the person’s testimony for Christ?
3) Is this “offense” a violation of the law?
4) Is this “offense” a clear violation of Biblical principle?
B.  Listen carefully and quietly to the other person’s position.
1. The importance of listening:
Proverbs 18:13:  “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”
a) How does listening put us in a better position to solve problems?
b) What is God’s view of a person who is not willing to listen first and be a learner?
Proverbs 18:2:  “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”
Proverbs 18:17:  “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.”
Proverbs 17:10:  “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.”

Develop and use “defusing” statements.
-  Consider the following list and decide which one would be most helpful for you:
1. I really appreciate your concern about this.
2. Thank you for being interested in this problem.
3. I am glad you are concerned about this.
4. Am I hearing you correctly?
5. Am I hearing you right?  Is this what you are saying?
6. Would you repeat that please?
7. Could you repeat that in a different way?
8. I see this is important to you; therefore, it is to me.
9. Let me think about that for a minute.
10. Show genuine concern about mate's feelings!
11. Thank you for taking time to share this with me.
12. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do to improve in this area?  (Show appreciation!)
13. Did I hear you say it upsets you when I...?  (Have a thankful spirit!)  Thank you for sharing this with me.
14. Are you saying you want me to discuss issues of this kind with you before I make a decision?  (Be thankful!)
15. I am interested in what you are saying, but I'm not clear about what you mean. Could you say it another way?
16. Let me see if I am hearing you correctly.
17. How could I do that differently?
18. What, exactly, is it you see that I am doing; or doing wrong?
19. I was not clearly seeing that.
20. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.
21. I am glad you pointed that out to me.
22. When did that happen?  I wasn't alert to that.  (Be careful about the use of this statement. Make sure it is true!)
23. I see that is important to you so I'll make it a point to be more alert to it.
Brainstorm some additional statements that could be used in solving conflicts.
3. Learn to ask “clarifying questions.”
What are some examples of “clarifying questions” that could help us better understand the situation and reach a solution?

C.  State in clear and concise terms what the actual problem is.
Proverbs 10:19”  “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
How will following this principle help us to solve problems?
D.  Rejoice that you don’t have to solve this problem alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:  “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
How can God use another person to help you be more like Jesus Christ?

E.  Brainstorm truths from the Scripture that will help you to solve the problem.
Psalm 119:162:  “I rejoice at Thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.”
Psalm 119:16:  “I shall delight in Thy statutes; I shall not forget Thy word.”
Psalm 119:24:  “Thy testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors.”
What is the relationship between regularly attending Sunday School and church, along with personal Bible study, and a person’s ability to brainstorm truths about solving problems.
F.  Pray together and ask for God’s help.
According to the following verses, what does God promise to do that will help us resolve conflicts:
James 1:5:  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 5:16:  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

G.  Brainstorm as many acceptable solutions to the problem as possible.

What are some of the differences between diagram #1 and diagram #2?

H.  Choose an acceptable solution while giving deference to the other person.
Philippians 2:3-4:  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
I.  If you still cannot get the problem solved, seek counsel from others.
Proverbs 11:14:  “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
What are some basic, yet necessary qualifications for someone to give you counsel?

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