Got Conflict?

I’m feeling led to deal with conflict resolution for a while here. Today’s discussion is about the “average” junk we deal with on a day to day basis.

“I think I’m going to put the sump pump in this weekend instead of Tuesday night,” Michael commented to his wife, Charysa.

“What? Why would you want to do that? That pump is over twelve years old, it could go any time, and it’s supposed to rain on Wednesday,” she responded.

He scowled. “The pump will be fine. We haven’t had any problems yet. It won’t be an issue,” he insisted.

Charysa couldn’t believe it. Here he was, not listening to her again. “I hate the idea. But it’s not your mess to clean up if it fails, is it? Do whatever you want, like I can stop you anyhow,” she quipped, rolling her eyes at him.

“Fine. I will,” he said, walking out of the room.

“Why did it always have to go this way?” she thought to herself.

These are small things, aren’t they? In the big scheme of things like unemployment, disability, chronic illness, dying family members and abused children in the world, feeling frustrated about how our husband handles replacing a sump pump seems somewhat trivial by comparison. For most women, these daily problems and weekly concerns should be considered small. For other women, however, these small things are NOT small at all, but rather are seldom, if ever, even discussed well. Some women have husbands who are abusive, alcoholic, drug addicted, and the resultant unpredictable behaviors which threaten to erupt like the bite of a cornered angry dog. What we fail to notice is that the plethora of small things makes up a full life, regardless of whether we are afraid of our husband or not – and we either have life abundant, or we have a meager existence that drains the life out of us.

Today is a special day for us on the blog. Our sister, Shanyn, will be talking about how this looks different when you have survived an abusive relationship here. For the rest of us, can we join our sisters in prayer for their safety and His strength within them?

How these discussions about daily “small things” play out in an average conflict is easily seen in our opening story. Unfortunately, the poor handling of these “little” discussions often result in the growth of bitterness and resentment, and over time, these “small things” build upon each other, sucking the life out of a marriage.

Conflict resolved well deepens intimacy between husbands and wives… conflict resolved poorly or avoided increases distance in our relationships. Ephesians 5:33 specifically tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Proverbs 15:1 reveals to us that “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger.” One could argue that Michael behaved unloving and showed insensitivity toward his wife’s opinion. He was also avoiding the conflict by physically leaving the room. One could also suggest that Charysa aroused his natural defenses disrespectfully but unintentionally, by asking him “Why?” rolling her eyes, and being argumentative in her responses. “Why?” is a word commonly avoided by most men in the workplace as it communicates a challenge. Given that most men are wired to perceive threat and respond immediately, this is not a communication behavior worth using in your marriage.

What should we do differently? As more relationship-oriented than most of our husbands, we are more naturally wired to care about these interactions going well and can make a greater impact if we will change but a few things about how we approach disagreements with him. (Please know I mean no offense if you fall in the category of marriages where the styles are flip-flopped – about 15% of marriages are like that.) Remembering that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, we have a few small steps that if done in the Spirit, deeply impact our interactions.

1) Validate his idea or opinion: “I hear what you are saying,” statement supported with evidence from what he told you. Avoid the word, “Why?” and enter the discussion in a calm, positive, way.

2) Ask a question to bring up new information: “What I’m wondering is how XYZ (thing he has not thought of or did not communicate that he has considered) fits into that. What do you think?”

3) Summarize his opinion to make sure you understand: “So if I understand you correctly, you mean, XYZ, right? Okay, I understand.”

4) Respectfully present your viewpoint in a way that makes it easy for him to hear: “What I’m struggling with is…” or “What I am really concerned about is…” presenting new information gently, allowing him to “save face.”

5) Ask another question to solve the issue: “What could we do about that?”

6) Be open to an idea neither of you had considered, but one that God brings to light during the discussion.

So going back to our conversation, let’s watch what can occur when we add a soft answer, and more respect from the wife:

“I think I’m going to put the sump pump in this weekend instead of Tuesday night,” Michael commented to his wife, Charysa.

“Oh?” Charysa responded nonchalantly. “I’m sure you have a good reason for doing that – do you mind helping me understand?”

“I’m exhausted when I get home in the evenings after working all day,” he said. “My friend Lucas said he could help me this weekend – it takes a few hours and I could use the help.”

“That’s great that you got help! I didn’t realize how big a job it was. I really appreciate you taking care of it to save us money,” she responded. “What I’m concerned about is the heavy rains we are supposed to get on Wednesday. It’s supposed to really start pouring Tuesday night. What should we do?”

“Hmmm…I didn’t know that. I wouldn’t worry about it. We haven’t had any issues with the sump pump – it should be fine,” he replied.

“So if I understand you correctly, you are thinking that you and Lucas can install it on the weekend? I can appreciate you wanting to wait when you are fresh and have more time. I know I’m worrying because it seems like the pump is really working every time it rains. It has lasted this long, though, so you are probably right. Just to put my mind at ease, will you plan to take the day off if the pump fails so I’m not dealing with a flooded basement by myself? I don’t think I could rip up the carpet or get the furniture out by myself,” she asked.

“Well, yes, I will commit to that,” he offered.

She smiled, not fully satisfied, but it was a decision she could live with, particularly since he was the one doing the work. An hour later, Michael let her know his friend Lucas would be coming over that afternoon to install the new pump. “I didn’t want to wait,” he told her.

Granted, not all interactions go this smoothly. Different priorities and differing levels of maturity result in different results. I can honestly say, however, that having worked on communicating with respect for both my husband and myself, and submitting instead of arguing have resulted in fewer conflicts, and more adult behavior on both our parts. I’ve seen it happen over and over again for others, too.

Dare you to ask God to reveal to you where your communication is breaking down, whether you are choosing to own things that aren’t yours to own, whether you are contentious and competitive (disrespectful), a doormat or a dominator, or overly emotional in your interactions. We all have growing to do in wisdom (maturity) with God and with men!

So glad you are on the journey! We’ll have more on this topic next blog.

Love to you,

~Nina

What about you? How have you seen yourself mature in how you engage in conflict? What is God revealing to you in this area?

Comments

  1. Jolie Newton says

    I have the tendency to yell to get my point across when i don’t feel heard. As I refrain from yelling now when we communicate , it is taking time for my family to recalibrate so we can communicate in a healthy way. Giving it time is the key. Today I remembered that I vowed to love, honor and cherish my husband. I believe if we focus on that then we will be able to communicate respectfully. Also, a dear older friend advised me that we all have fragile egos and when I think there is something wrong or criticize my husband that I need to think of something positive about him. then drop the matter unless it must be addressed. then she advised to carefully consider the timing of when i bring it up and to bring it up gently.

  2. Denise says

    I too am sad for the difficulty experienced in this marriage and can totally relate as I too thought of seeking an attorney for understanding my rights. My Christian counselor recommended (given my exhaustion, a need to move forward and at my request on how to) to seek guidance from Conflict Resolution and Conciliation Service(CRCS) in our area. It did my heart good after meeting with them and I’m now working through first six chapters of PeaceMaker (by Ken Sande) with my husband (who responds to consequences) for several weeks in hope of seeing change (in both of us) and if not, then return for mediation and separation agreement preparation for protection and time to work on things separately while the ground work is laid for permanent separation if there can be no reconciliation. I think CRCS can be googled for other locations. Thanks all for your postings as I realize others struggling with same issues and I got my Respect Dare book yesterday.

  3. Renee says

    Praying for you AR…..I feel like you are living my story……it finally got so bad that I had to leave for a time for my own health and sanity. I did not leave with any intentions of divorce, it took 11 months of counseling with our pastor, individually and as a couple, before we got back together. My husband was raised in an abusive home, his mom verbally and physically abused him, and he brought all that into our marriage. I on the other hand, saw my mom be treated like dirt, like the rug you wipe your feet on, and I told myself I would never allow a man to do that to me! Feminist through and through! After I got saved, God really had to do a work on me girl! So between the two of us we were like oil & water! I share that because I want you to know there is hope – I can honestly say it was the best thing I’ve ever done for our marriage. It doesn’t mean that’s the right step for you & I am not encouraging you to do that, seek the Lord on what you should do – I struggled for quite some time before I left & thank goodness we had a couple who we are best friends with that offered for me to stay with them. I struggled with was it right for me to leave him for a time when my pastor shared this verse with me. “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:10-11…..I did it with the intent of being reconciled to my husband but also knowing it was not healthy for me to be in the situation and it was impossible for us, at that point to work on our marriage while living together. Living apart opened out eyes to what we, individually, needed to allow God to work on and also for us to express our feelings, concerns, etc. with each other. God’s blessing to you……..

  4. says

    Tone of voice, facial expression, and attitude can all affect the way our words are received. As I learned these truths over the years Roy’s and my relationship changed from contentious to loving and pleasant. My husband and I are each other’s best friend with skin on. We are together 24/7 and there is little conflict.
    Nina, I am so impressed with you. I wish I had your insight when I was your age.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Baby, as menopause rears it’s head, I am enjoying your comment. :) :) Please don’t be impressed with me, God has given me a message, I am thankful for the privilege of presenting it and am learning as I go, too. :) I am fully aware of the depravity of my spirit without Jesus Christ. Any good you see is ALL HIM, baby! :)
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  5. says

    I have been using this example to try and communicate better in our “discussions” and thus far, it has not worked. My soft answers only enrage my husband more, because he WANTS me to fight him back. He feels like the only way he will ever know what I truly feel or think is to bully me until I am mad or hurt, and explode. I am thankful to say I haven’t exploded in a few months…but I am sad to say, this has only gotten worse. because my husband has turned his face from God and no longer cares about His will for us, and because he has stopped seeking to understand, the anger and tension in my home has escalated. I have finally had the courage to seek help. I could use prayer. I am calling a lawyer today.

    • leahgwen says

      Dear AR,
      I am not in charge of this blog, but like you, read it for ideas on how to communicate better in my marriage. Please know that there are women praying for you. Also, I hope that an attorney is not the only help you are seeking at this time. I know you must be hurting emotionally, and are in need of spiritual guidance. This blog is a great place to start, but you may also need to seek the help of Christian counselor, not only for you individually, but also (hopefully) as a couple.
      LH

      • says

        I contacted a woman from my church, our associate pastor’s wife, to discuss the ongoing abuse. It has been 9-10 months of determent and deterioration in our communication. Longer for the way he has been bullying me into arguments. He is a Christian attorney backed by our Church, and we are only talking about what I should be doing to protect myself. My husband is unwilling to seek help, has refused it from our friends, people in our church, and professionals. He is unwilling to admit there is anything wrong.

    • says

      I will be praying for you AR. Everything you said makes me sad and it reminds me of my home life growing up. Shouting and tension were just part of our every day routine. And sadly it is a behavior that I took with me when I left.

      Part of me knew it was wrong to shout when I got angry but I certainly had never seen anything different. My ex-husband is actually the person who pointed it out to me. In the midst of an argument he just stopped and told me he would no longer accept this kind of communication. I tried to continue the conversation without elevating my voice … but I needed him to understand my point. At that point he picked up the car keys and he left. (Back before cell phones) He waited 30 minutes and came back home. I was frantic and outside waiting on him. He quickly reassured me that he loved me and was not intending to “leave me” but said he would not communicate with me if I was going to yell at him (and expect him to respond in the same way). Again we tried to revisit the conversation – again my voice elevated as I tried to voice my side of the conflict, again he drove away. I was much different when he returned. I can’t tell you this was the last time I ever used my anger to yell at him or someone else but I can tell you that I never forgot the lesson he taught me that day. To value him, to speak to him respectfully. To make an effort to learn how to communicate, and be heard, in a new way.

      It looks like this is a lesson that you have already learned (and are here still working on) but I wanted to share my story with you to let you know that there is hope for your husband also. When I think back to the way I used to be and see the difference that God has made in my life today, I’m in awe of His power.

      Please know that I am not saying that what happened to me is THE ANSWER or will help you in any way. I just think miracles still happen and there is always hope. Like someone else said, I hope that you are seeking help outside of just a lawyer. I will be praying for God to send someone into each of your lives to help you through this time. ~katy

    • Nina Roesner says

      Praying for you, AR. I’d like to encourage you to persevere, try Matthew 18 if you haven’t already… but know you are not alone, know you are prayed for by many, and loved deeply by Him. Keep us posted, beautiful.
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

      • says

        he has had many of his and our mutual friends confront him, and because he is not wanting help, he is not willing to receive help, and he is not accepting anyone’s opinion on the matter. I appreciate and covet prayers. This is not what I thought would ever happen. We have only been married for 3 years.

        • Nina Roesner says

          What I’m wondering, is have you followed the steps, in order? Sorry if I am prying, and I mean no offense. Perhaps the person you choose to “take with you” to witness in step 2 will matter greatly – but if you have already done this, and he knows that you are considering leaving him, then a time apart may be what God ordains for this time. Prayers for wisdom and comfort for you. I know how broken your heart must be… http://www.esvbible.org/Matthew+18/

          Love to you,
          ~Nina

          • says

            There have been between 4 and 6 different people who have confronted on my behalf. Men that stood up in our wedding, men he has lived with in the past and knew from college and who we were great friends with. Some have confronted with great force and anger at the situation, others have tried to listen to his anger and rantings and give him godly wisdom. we have also sat down with our associate pastor, the man who officiated our service for our wedding, and even then, he steeled himself up, because he heard only that he was wrong and that he was bad, when what the three of us were trying to communicate was that it was hurting me, and maybe there was another way. During that confrontation, he was given an opportunity to seek out a counselor, paid for by the church, to talk to some one else, and he never took the information and never called. Over the last 6-8 months, I have sought help on this matter. The Attorney is not because I am leaving him. I wont leave him, but if the abuse cycle continues to escalate in the ways that it already has, I can’t trust my husband to protect me or care for me, and I am looking at what my options are.

            • Nina Roesner says

              Love to you, brave one. Cling tightly. He will tell you what to do. I am so sorry. You are NOT alone. Keep us posted. You can email specific requests to information(at)GreaterImpact.org .
              ((((hugs))))
              ~Nina

    • leahgwen says

      I hope I did not offend you before. I was trying to speak out of love. I am and will be praying for you AR. It looks like so many of us are!

    • Lisa says

      Grace to you AR. I can relate. In my marriage, I am the one who is constantly told that I like to argue, whenever our “discussions” are not smooth and easy. In fact, I am passionate when we communicate and have to work on showing less strong emotion and raising my voice, which he takes as “fighting.” As I have been praying and focusing on how I communicate, I have begun to notice that my husband will say and do things seemingly to set me off — just to make me explode. I would encourage you to continue to seek God for self-control (as you are responsible only for your own actions) and for wisdom in speaking with your husband. I am a witness that God can and will begin to open your husband’s eyes to his own issues. It may be in the work setting that God gets his attention, translating to greater humility and brokenness at home. God is faithful, and He will help you!

    • says

      AR – Please know I am praying for you. Our God is a God of miracles and he loves your hubby more than you can possibly imagine.

      Father – intervene for this sister. Let her hubby know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are relentlessly pursuing him and you want him to come home. In faith, I rejoice that nothing is beyond you; not even a marriage that seems, to my finite eyes, broken beyond repair. Surround this beautiful one with your children who can love and support her as she seeks your heart in this painful time.

  6. Melanie says

    I love having the examples of wording to use. It’s amazing how phrasing things correctly makes things go so much smoother, plus you may get more info out of the conversation. Thank you

Got thoughts?