Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thou Shalt Make Conflict Thy Ally

Say what?!?  Yes, you read the title right.  Chapter 4 of the book brings us the commandment:

Thou Shalt Make Conflict Thy Ally

You may think that having a fight with your spouse is the worst thing ever.  I do.  I hate it.  The way it makes you feel after...all horrible inside.  Well, ya know what?  It's healthy for your relationship.  Whew!

The two common myths that Ed gives in the chapter are:
  1. Good marriages don't have problems.
  2. Conflict hurts good marriages.
Both of those statements are false.  Conflict is normal...just like in any other relationship.  We may not choose the conflict, but we can choose our attitudes when dealing with it.

I'd like to share a paragraph from the book that I think is so true.

"I'm always astounded at the number of people I meet who actually believe marriage will fix their lives and make everything just right.  Here's a guy who has difficulty with work, trouble in school, and poor family relationships--but by getting married, he things everything will turn our great.  Or a girl who thinks that by saying, 'I do,' her life will turn blissfully happy 'till death do us part.'  Where did we get such a foolish idea?"

This is so true!  How many times growing up did we think that marriage would be wonderful all the time and all would be right in the world?  I can think of a handful of girls right now, that have this attitude toward marriage.  Hate to break it to you, but life gets harder.  It's a good kind of harder (hehe), but it is more difficult because you now have another person in your life that you have to put before yourself.  It's wonderful, don't get me wrong, but there are more challenges that you will face.

There are several "don'ts of conflict" that Ed lists in the book that I'd love to share with you:

  1. Don't be ashamed of your anger.  Anger isn't a sin...in fact, Jesus was angry in the Bible.  It's normal, but you just have to know how to react to that anger.  Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry."  When anger is handled properly, it's not a problem.
  2. Don't call in heavy artillery or use deadly weapons.  The goal isn't to wipe out your spouse in what you think might be WWIII.  Don't say, "I'll leave," or "We'll get a divorce."  In fact, you probably shouldn't ever say that.  Growing up the "d" word wasn't allowed in our house.  And it's not allowed in my marriage either.
  3. Don't air your dirty linen in public.  Don't discuss private conflicts with all your buddies, family, or co-workers.  That has a way of backfiring in your face.  Sometimes you need a different perspective from someone you trust, but going around talking about your spouse to different people because you're mad isn't the way to handle the situation.
  4. Don't paint yourself into a corner.  As he says in the book, "Don't maneuver yourself into a position from which there is no retreat."  Don't bring up past things that you've been holding onto or you've already dealt with.
  5. Don't use the turtle approach.  Don't climb in your shell and hide from the world.  Don't keep quiet about it.  Sometimes you might have to walk away, but always come back to talk about the situation and what has happened.
  6. Don't keep a chip on your shoulder.  Don't overstate things.  He says, "Don't take a little situation and generalize it and make it sound as if it has been the situation from the very beginning."
  7. Don't use sex as a weapon.  Don't take away sex as a punishment and don't use it as a reward.  If this happens, sometimes men will feel like they have to earn their wife's affection...this could lead to another woman in the situation.
Some things to do when in a conflict:
  1. Talk and listen to God.
  2. Try to understand your mate.
  3. Try to understand yourself.
  4. Talk to your mate.
  5. Don't let the sun go down on your anger.
  6. Make confession and forgiveness a priority.
These things are pretty much self explanatory, but if you need some more guidance, you can pick up the book and read it.

This week's questions:

If you are married:
  1. How has a conflict resulted in strengthening a weak point in your relationship with your spouse?
  2. Are you a peacemaker or a prizefighter?  Explain.
  3. How do you need to change to make conflict an ally rather than an enemy?
  4. How did your parents handle conflict when you were growing up, and how has that pattern affected you?
If you are contemplating or preparing for marriage:
  1. What conflicts or tension do you have at present in your relationship?  (If you believe there are no conflicts, perhaps you or your beloved are not being open about your attitudes, preferences, or feelings.)
  2. Do you express your disagreements to each other?  Why or why not?
  3. Discuss with your beloved those things that create tensions.  Ask him or her to do the same.
  4. Together, plan strategies to deal with conflicts in the future.

Missed a part?  You can catch up here:

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