Series: Kiss Me Like You Mean It (Pt 3)
Episode: Dealing with Conflict
I had coffee the other day with a man who was just recently married. He was, not surprisingly, a very happy man. So when I told him that that initial passion he’s feeling right now fades and disappears in 100% of marriages he was shocked, dismayed. That’s when I shared with him Gods plan for maintaining a life long passion and intimacy in his marriage.
Yeah he was pretty deflated I have to tell you. “What do you mean, the passion that I feel for my wife and the passion she feels for me in these early months of our marriage are going to fade?” You should have seen the look on his face; it kind of burst his bubble. I guess I was just exercising my gift of encouragement.
But it’s not me that’s saying this, it’s something that Dr David Clarke, a man who’s counselled hundreds, thousands of married couples over the last twenty something years, writes in the first paragraph of his book, ‘Kiss Me Like You Mean It’. This is what he says:
Why in 100% of all marriages does passion disappear just a handful of years after the wedding?
And he knows a whole bunch more about marriage than probably you or I do right?
Over these last few weeks we’ve been talking a lot about marriage in this series inspired in part by Dr Clarke’s book. Part of the answer to that question is that most people don’t know how to deal with conflict. Now we all deal with conflict in one way or another but most people aren’t that good at dealing with conflict.
See the outcomes of conflict can either be constructive or destructive and for most people sadly it’s the latter and that’s because most of us don’t know how to handle conflict well. The key here is well. Because whenever you put two or more people in the same place for long enough there is going to be conflict, you don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure that out. We all know that from our life experience, conflict is inevitable.
Why? Because we live in a world full of selfish people, you and me included. We live in a world where some people step over boundaries they should never have stepped over. We live in a world where people see things from a different perspective yet they don’t have the wisdom or the maturity to harness those differences and so instead of being a source of rich community, different perspectives are often the place where conflict begins.
Do you recognise any of those? I’m sure you do. I want to share with you today and three part plan for dealing effectively with conflict that you may be experiencing in your marriage. We can all remember three simple things right until the next time we’re angry with our soul mate, the person who God gave to us to spend the rest of our lives with, then all our wisdom seems to go out the window?
Well I’m here to encourage you to remember these three steps for the next time you’re angry and you can feel conflict brewing in your marriage because the difference between doing them and not doing them is the difference between a rich intimate marriage and a dull boring lifeless marriage. So are you ready?
Step one: Speak the truth in love. That comes straight out of the Bible which as it turns out is an incredibly practical guide to how to live a great life and this one comes out of something the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament, Ephesians chapter 4, verse 15 if you want to go and check it out for yourself. Now he writes it in a slightly different context but since marriage is all about love it applies equally to our marriages.
If something your wife or husband is doing or not doing is hurting you deeply there are two ways you can approach it. Firstly you can yell at them, you can vent your anger at them or you can remember that you really love this person and find a gentle powerful way of speaking the truth to them in love. In a way that doesn’t accuse them or condemn them, in a way that tells them even in the middle of this difficult issue, you still love them deeply. Now which one of those two approaches do you think is going to work the best? Huh? Speak the truth in love. What a great way to start when we’re in conflict.
Step two is about anger as is the third step, which we’ll talk about just a little bit later. A few verses down from that speaking the truth in love in chapter 4, verse 26 of this letter the Apostle Paul writes:
Be angry but do not sin.
That’s an interesting thing. You’d think that anger would be a sin but not according to God, He’s a realist, we do get angry sometimes, hey, He gets angry sometimes. That word ‘sin’ literally means ‘to miss the mark’ or ‘miss the point’. So what Gods saying here is this.
Look I understand some days you’re going to get angry but when you do don’t miss the point, and when it comes to your wife or your husband the point is that you love them. It’s so easy to say incredibly hurtful things when we’re angry, things that will damage your relationship, things you can never take back. I wish I’d never married you or worse still threatening divorce.
See that sort of anger completely misses the point which is, deep down, despite what your spouse has done to cause you to be angry, you love them deeply. We can express displeasure, frustration and anger without missing the mark especially when we take a short time beforehand, before we open our mouths, to remember we love them.
And thirdly this comes from the second part of that same verse:
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
In other words don’t go to sleep angry, don’t go to bed with the issue unresolved, don’t let anger fester into the next day and the day after that and the day after that because then it will become just another brick in the wall that divides you from the person whom you love the most and when that happens first passion and then love ultimately die.
Speaking the truth in love; be angry without sinning, without missing the point and don’t let the sun go down on your anger or to look at it another way – forgive quickly. In fact the more quickly and completely we forgive the more passionate and loving and intimate our marriage is going to be.
None of this is particularly complicated and you and I both know that these three steps make an enormous amount of sense. If you want to have an intimate marriage then both of you need to learn these steps for dealing with conflict.
Here they are again – speak the truth in love; be angry but don’t sin and do not let the sun go down on your anger.
You might remember last week I shared with you that great bit of wisdom from the Bible, the Song of Songs chapter 2, verse 15:
It’s the little foxes that ruin the vine.
In other words often it’s the little annoying things that we blow out of all proportion that tear a marriage apart, that rob a marriage of the fruit of passion. The whole verse if perhaps you missed that discussion goes like this, the Song of Songs chapter 2, verse 15:
Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards for our vineyards are in blossom.
Now the operative part of that verse is that because these rotten little foxes gnaw away at the base of the vine and ruin the vineyard, we need to catch these little blighters and kick them out and so one of the things I’m always on guard for, one of the things I’m looking out for, I wish I did it perfectly but alas, is whether this thing that I’m finding annoying is really worth getting angry about or whether anger is indeed the correct response.
I was talking to a man recently whose wife is a terrible snorer and he was losing a lot of sleep. This guy was getting angry and frustrated with her so I asked him, “Do you think she’s snoring on purpose? Do you think this is something she has any control over?” Surprised he said, “Well, no”. So then I asked him, “How come you’re getting angry with her?”
His anger was getting in the way of speaking the truth in love and looking for the right solution to get him a better night’s sleep. Anger isn’t always the best response. Anger isn’t always the right response to conflict. So remember watch out for those little foxes and treat them for what they are.