The Heart of Marriage
Dennis & Jill Eenigenburg
7. WHAT ARE GOD’S PRINCIPLES FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT?
The premise of this study on marriage is that we are to paint a portrait of the relationship of Christ and His Bride the Church. The Bible describes sinful mankind and a Holy God in conflict. Because God is holy he could not ignore the punishment our sin deserved. Because God loves us He made a just way for our sins to be forgiven. This forgiveness is made available through the substitutionary death of the sinless Son of God Jesus Christ. When sinners place their faith in Christ’s death in their place they are forgiven and the conflict with God is removed.
Every married couple experiences conflict on various levels. The issue is not avoiding all conflict. The issue is following God’s example and exhortations for resolving conflict. Conflict can result in separation or in resolution, depending on how we choose to respond. Let us begin by considering the gift of peace from the perfect Peacemaker.
I. RESOLVING CONFLICT IS POSSIBLE THROUGH GOD’S GIFT OF PEACE TO US.
God’s peace expresses itself in three dimensions.
A. We have been given the gift of peace with God. Romans 5:1-2
B. We have been given the gift of peace with others. Ephesians 4:2-3
We are called to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This tells us that the Spirit has already established unity in the relationships of believers.
In the marriage of two believers there is a spiritual unity established by the Holy Spirit based on spiritual realities. As we focus on the oneness we have in Christ we promote oneness in the marriage relationship. When we take our eyes off these spiritual realities, we disrupt unity.
C. We have been given the gift of peace with ourselves. John 14:27
If as believers we have been given the gift of peace and unity why do we still experience conflict in marriage and other relationships? It is helpful to consider the various sources of conflict because the source often dictates the solution.
II. RESOLVING CONFLICT REQUIRES AN HONEST CONSIDERATION OF THE SOURCES OF CONFLICT.
A. Sometimes marriage conflict comes from inappropriate desires.
1. The sources of inappropriate desires are the world, the flesh and the devil. James 4:1-4
James describes the conflict believers have with the world, the flesh and devil. Even though we have been set free from bondage to these influences we still experience temptation. Temptation appeals to the desires of the flesh in conflict with the desires of the Holy Spirit. In this passage we see a variety of desires that put us in conflict with God and in conflict with others.
• Lust is the desire for pleasures that are immoral.
The result of blocked lust is sometimes the destruction of other.
• Envy is the inappropriate desire for the position or possessions of others.
The result of blocked envy is fighting and quarrelling.
• Friendship with the world is expressed by living in its godless ways.
The result of worldly living is hostility with God.
2. The solution to inappropriate desires is repentance. James 4:7-10
• Repentance requires submission to God.
• Repentance requires resisting the devil
• Repentance results in drawing near to God and restoring fellowship.
• Repentance requires putting aside evil thoughts and deeds.
• Repentance includes a grieving over one’s sins.
• Repentance restores the humility that results in God blessing one’s life.
B. Sometimes conflict in marriage comes from natural differences.
1. Couples experience conflict based on different temperaments.
It may be helpful to distinguish between temperament, character and personality.
Temperament is a combination of inborn traits that affect our behavior subconsciously.
Character is one’s natural temperament modified by childhood training, education, spiritual convictions and beliefs.
Personality is an outward expression of ourselves, which may or may not reflect our character. Personality can be façade or a genuine expression of our inner self.
THE FOUR BASIC TEMPERMANTS THEORY
400 years before Christ, Hippocrates, a brilliant Greek physician and philosopher proposed four different types of temperament. While no person is a single-temperament type, each person usually has one type that is predominant over the others.
It may be helpful to read the following descriptions and identify your own dominant temperament and that of your spouse. Place an ”
I” in the space that best describes your temperament and an “S” on the line of the best description of your spouse.
Sanguine – The Sanguine are warm, buoyant, lively, receptive, spontaneous and out-going. He never lacks for friends. Feelings rather than reflective thought influence his decisions. He enjoys people and avoids solitude. He has a tendency to speak before he thinks.
Choleric – The Choleric temperament is described by the following words: hot, quick, active, practical, strong-willed, self-sufficient, decisive and opinionated. Cholerics are often leaders who are determined, purposeful and willing to stand against the opinion of others for what they believe is right. His least developed area is his emotions. He is often insensitive to the feelings of others because he is task, not relationship oriented.
Melancholic – The Melancholic temperament is described in the following words: analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist, sensitive and emotional. Melancholics are often gifted in the arts. A dependable friend but does not push himself on others. His analytical ability causes him to see the dangers and obstacles in any project he is part of planning. He has a strong desire to be loved by others. By nature he is an introvert. He is prone to emotional swings from ecstasy to gloom. He places high value on self-sacrifice.
Phlegmatic – The phlegmatic temperament is slow, calm, easy going, well balanced and happy. He enjoys life and has a dry sense of humor. He is rarely angry or depressed. He is steady and often tries to avoid direct involvement. He does not lack for friends because he enjoys people. He is sympathetic, but hides his true feelings. He does not seek leadership but when pressed to do it he proves capable. He tends to be a peacemaker.
2. Couples experience conflict based on different priorities and pace.
Priority refers to what we value.
___ I am task oriented if I value accomplishing a task over nurturing or establishing relationships.
___ I am people oriented if I value nurturing or establishing relationships over accomplishing tasks.
Pace refers to the speed or lack of speed generated by our temperaments.
___ I am a fast-paced person compared to most other people I know.
___ I am a slow-paced person compared to most other people I know.
TAKE IT TO HEART
1. What are some examples of how having different temperaments in marriage can lead to conflicts?
2. What are some examples of how having different priorities in marriage can lead to conflicts?
3. What are some examples of how having different pace in marriage can lead to conflicts?
4. How have these differences led to conflicts in your marriage?
3. Suggestions for resolving conflicts arising from temperament differences include:
Allowing God to transform your temperament weakness through the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
Accepting each other’s differences and learning from each other’s strengths.
C. Sometimes conflict in marriage comes from differences of opinion.
1. Differences of opinion are common because each person is unique.
Many things influence our opinions and preferences. We reflect on previous experiences, the examples of our parents, the way we were raised. Our opinions will also be impacted by one’s personality, preferences and gender differences.
2. Suggestions for resolving differences of opinion include:
•Let each person express his or her point of view without interruption or criticism.
•Ask each other questions for clarification.
•Determine the main point of disagreement.
•Seek for any Biblical principles for or against the views presented.
•Commit to pray for a resolution and unity.
•If an impasse still exists and decision must be made and the issue the husband as leader should be granted that responsibility. (the wife is not obligated to do anything immoral or illegal under her husbands headship)
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. I Corinthians 11:3
III. CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN MARRIAGE SOMETIMES REQUIRES LOVING CONFRONTATION AND FORGIVENESS.
When a married couple has a difference of opinion that is serious enough to lead to conflict what should they do to resolve the issue?
A. Some couples react to conflict with “fight responses” (DOMINATION) such as:
•Outbursts of anger and loss of self-control.
The “fight responses” are always inappropriate ways for believers to treat one another. If this is a pattern in your marriage you need to confess your sin before God and ask your mate for your forgiveness. Repentance is also needed. To repent is to change course or manner of behavior.
B. Some couples react to conflict with a “flight response” (ISOLATION) such as:
•Denial and pretending a problem does not exist
•Withdrawing emotionally or physically from one’s mate.
When a person is in physical danger, the “flight response” is an appropriate way to seek self-protection. In other kinds of conflict the “flight responses” are counter-productive. They deny or delay the need for resolution. They lead to resentment and isolation.
C. Some couples react to conflict with a “forgiving response” (RESOLUTION) which includes:
1. Caring confrontation:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1
“If anyone is caught in any transgression.” (INITIATIVE) — A transgression can be a moral transgression or a relational transgression. It is appropriate to approach someone we know and love if their behavior is offensive to God or to others. In marriage, it is an expression of love to confront wrongs committed by our spouse.
“you who are spiritual” — In church relationships the mature believers initiate confrontation. In marriage the caring spouse has that role. It is imperative that one be spiritually up to the task. Before confronting one’s spouse take time to examine your own heart. Be honest about your motivation.
“restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (AFFIRMATION) — The goal of confrontation is the restoration of the relationship. It is to resolve the offenses and return to marital oneness. Gentleness needs to be conveyed in one’s tone of voice and one’s choice of words.
“keep watch over yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (HUMILITY) — One temptation we need to conquer is the temptation of pride or arrogance. Just because we do not have the same weakness or sin of the person confronted is no basis for pride. We each have our own shortcomings and thus should always be humble when confronting one another.
2. Seeking Forgiveness
Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:23-24
TAKE IT TO HEART TIPS
When seeking forgiveness always:
1. Confess your offense to God first.
2. Admit your wrong without blaming the other person.
3. State clearly the offense you are confessing.
4. State steps you have taken to avoid this offense in the future.
5. Ask for forgiveness.
6. Offer to pray for the offended person if they so desire.
2. Granting Forgiveness
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
TAKE IT TO HEART TIPS
When granting forgiveness always:
•Thank God for His generous forgiveness of your offenses.
•Acknowledge the hurt and pain the offense has caused.
•State the offense you are forgiving.
•Assure the offender of your own shortcomings.
•Affirm your desire to rebuild the damaged relationship.
•Pray daily for the offender and for restoration in the relationship.