Fighting to Fight Right!
Wayne and Jennifer Rogers
Guest writers (Locked 4 Life Marriage Ministry Directors)
As the reality of quarantine began to unfold, my husband and I joked about being stuck in the house together for an undefined amount of time. We laughed and then it all became a reality. He was in the process of changing jobs, so we had a vacation planned and he took some days off in between. Well, when the country shutdown we canceled our vacation plans and settled into just spending time at home together. We grocery shopped so we didn’t have to leave and came up with a bunch of things we could do around the house together to fill the time. Honestly, aside from being sick, we had the best time. I learned a lot about my husband during this time. He likes to be wherever I am in the house. He likes to watch TV without interruptions of phones and computers and requires my undivided attention when we are communicating. He learned I like to have a lot going on all the time, I’m a master at multi-tasking and that I like to be moving and doing something all the time. I also don’t know how to relax.
As we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company, we began to think about all the couples who aren’t having such an experience. I feel like quarantine brought us closer, we understand each other better, we really are friends and we like being around each other. But there are some that this could be the most challenging time of their lives. We decided that as the leaders of the Locked 4 Life Marriage Ministry we were going to have to do something to help couples cope with having so much time together.
Part of our focus this year is to “stop normalizing dysfunction." What that means is, what the world or even now the church says is supposed to be your normal reaction to married life, combat that with what the word says it should be. If we started measuring our love against how Christ loves or how the church submits, we would think very differently about what we consider normal.
There are a lot of things that we have deemed as: “it is, what it is” and made the decision that it's bigger than God and something even He can't reach. Not so! There is nothing too hard for Him. His design of marriage is perfect, it’s the people in it that make or break it. So, the following are just a few rules of engagement when it comes to dealing with conflict with your spouse, and defeat the dysfunction you may have already created in your relationships:
1) Take heed to yourself! It is important to understand how you manage your own stress. And what your stress behaviors are. Some stress behaviors are nagging, being nitpicky, shutting down, or being moody. Your spouse may not understand that stress is the driver. It's sometimes easier to lash out to the person closest to you when you are feeling under pressure and unprotected. The only person you can control is you! Your spouse is not God, it is not their job to make you whole, Only God can do that!! Put them in their rightful place and watch God make up the difference.
2) Look for the positive and think on these things. Phil 4:8. Everything can’t be all bad or you wouldn’t have married them. Look for what's right, what has virtue, what is good. If you only concentrate on what you don’t have, you will miss what you do have. The value you put on something does change how you take care of it. Change the way you see your spouse, look for the value.
3) Listen to understand, not to reply. A lot of conflicts would be resolved if people would just listen. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the other person, and not just focus on yourself and how it is affecting you. Did you know we can see the same situation completely differently and both be right? It is possible. But realizing there are no winners or losers in marriage, because if my husband loses, what did I win?
4) Love doesn’t think evil. Unmet expectations it the number one killer in marriage. Especially if they are expectations you didn’t communicate. As Pastor Tim Harris said some time ago, "Expectation + Reality = Disappointment." This is a dangerous equation and the catalyst for disaster for more marriages. However, what love will do, is give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Love will not assume your spouse’s negative or indifferent response is rooted in anger or resentment; it will not assume they are out to get you either. Love covers, it allows grace to grow.
5) Not all conflict is destructive. Some think that if you never argue, you have a perfect relationship. Well, it isn't healthy to release when you are frustrated, the key is knowing when, where, why, and how! Once you have processed through all the tips above and have identified an issue you want to address, the devil is now in the details. You have to be careful and timing is everything. Some things you can address right away, others you have to pick the perfect time. You must decide what you want to accomplish. Do you want to come together or be further apart? That will help you decide quickly on the details of the crucial conversation. Did you know you can create conflict by trying to avoid it? That’s even more damaging to a relationship!
6) Lastly, forgive often and quickly. Forgiveness is supernatural. We need God’s help to do it! And yes you can forgive in spite of the apology you never got. Jesus did it! And we surely aren’t better than Him. But he’s given us everything we need to be able to do it! When I think about all the things I have done and my thoughts God that had to forgive me for; how could I not extend the same to my spouse? Of course, some things are easier to move on from than others, but the key is to keep moving. Don’t stay stuck in an event or a mindset. You don’t get to control every thought that comes to mind but you absolutely can control how long it stays and what it builds while it's there.
I hope something in this article will help you understand: no marriage is without issues, it is really about how you deal with them that will make or break your relationship.
God likens His relationship with the church to marriage and I keep that thought before me when dealing with my husband. We don’t want to be a stumbling block for each other. We want each other to see Jesus in peace. We want to see each other successful and happy. That’s half the battle. The other half is simply dealing with yourself!