Conflict can be good if you see it from the right perspective, but conflict is also hard, especially in a marriage. Conflict can be good in that it resolves deeper issues, unmet expectations, and miscommunications, but it could also cause a rift in our marriage that is hard to resolve. Our spouses see us at our best and our worst. It is easy for us to take out our areas of pain and frustration on our spouses, but simply because they are in our lives doesn’t mean we can use them as a punching bag. When I chose to see my spouse in a new light and understand the role healthy conflict has in our marriage, I could resolve arguments in a godly way.
First, I saw my spouse as an ally rather than an enemy. This was the most important part of shifting my perspective. I sometimes saw my husband as the enemy against me, using words like weapons and hurling insults because he was not there to support me. I had unhealthy expectations that he would always love and support me unconditionally—perfectly. Those are things I can only get from God. I was using my husband as a way to take out my greatest frustrations instead of seeing him as an ally. I now see him as a flawed person who makes mistakes just like me, and it has helped me forgive him in areas where I was wronged.
Look Past the Past
Second, I was able to look past the past. Although I was diligent in forgiving current situations, it was easy for me to bring them back up again during present conflict. But that is not what Jesus did. To be an example of Jesus, I needed to forgive my spouse and choose to remember his sins no more. That especially includes the sins committed against us. This may seem impossible, but it can be done with God’s help. Just as God still remembers our sins yet chooses not to use them against us, we can choose to do the same when it comes to our spouses. We are only doing ourselves a disservice when we choose to hold past offenses against our spouse. If I wanted to have a good marriage, I had to let go of the past and forge ahead toward a healthy marriage for the future.
Take Personal Responsibility
Third, I had to take responsibility for the parts of the conflict where I was wrong. Instead of shifting blame to my spouse in every situation, I had to analyze my part and responsibility in the offense. I sometimes laid blame even when I had been wronged, and I had to take responsibility for my part in that. When I was able to take responsibility, bring it to God, and ask God for his forgiveness, I could rest assured knowing that Christ’s blood covered all my past wrongs. Not only that, but I was able to view my husband’s wrongs in the same light. God chooses not to hold his offenses against me. If I am to be an example of Christ, I can’t hold his past offenses against him either.
Choose Your Battles
Fourth, I chose my battles. I saw the conflict as the problem, but often, it was just a symptom of a much larger problem. For example, if I saw extra dishes in the sink and it was his turn to do the dishes, I would explode at him for not doing his share. However, it was my feelings of unappreciation and a feeling of being used that were my underlying issues rather than his lack of diligence regarding the chores. When I could go to God with my deeper needs for appreciation and ask God to validate who I am in Christ, the dishes became an act of service rather than a chore to be endured.
When I was able to shift my perspective and ask God to meet my deeper needs rather than going to my spouse, I was able to see the relationship for what it truly was: a partnership where we mirror Christ and the Church. Because we are human, it can often be messy. Both husband and wife make mistakes and hurt the other. The more that happened and the more those situations piled up, the more difficult it became to forgive and to love with the same love Christ had for me. When I was able to work through my issues regarding feeling unappreciated or undervalued, I was able to see that God is the only one who can meet my needs. If you are struggling with deeper needs, there is hope.
During your quiet time, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any past situations where you felt this need for the first time. As I examined my life, I often found these deeper feelings did not come from my spouse but rather from my bad childhood experiences. When I was able to forgive the offender for not meeting my needs, I was able to see my spouse in a more loving way. A great resource for this is Soul Care by Rob Reimer. In it, he takes the reader through several areas where the soul may have emotional baggage that, when resolved, can lead people to a free life in Christ. When I was able to rid myself of deeper wounds and issues that I could not change, I was able to walk in freedom. I also noticed my physical, mental, and emotional well-being were better off because of the work God had done in my life.
See the Partnership
Fifth, I was able to see my marriage as a partnership: two equal people working together to accomplish the work of the Kingdom. When I saw one of us as more than the other, it skewed my relationship and allowed one of us to act superior toward the other. This caused a sense of inferiority that I could not change. When I started seeing myself as inferior to others, it skewed my worldview, hindering my ability to see others with the same eyes that Jesus sees them. I had to change how I saw myself. I had to rid myself of pride and ambition and see myself as a sinner in need of God’s grace. When I was able to see myself for who I truly am—a person whose sin Christ’s blood covered on the cross, I was able to see people for who they were. How I viewed myself affected how I viewed others.
When we see ourselves with the truth of Scripture, we can hold tight to God’s promises and know that regardless of what happens, he sees us as his child, dearly loved. When I could see myself in that same vein, I was able to work within the confines of how God wired me. This gave me a feeling of deeper meaning and purpose. When we live every day as if we have a specific purpose, we can have the assurance that God will use us to accomplish his work. When I saw myself as a unique individual created by God to do the job only he has given me to do, it gave me a purpose much deeper than simply earning a paycheck or having a good marriage. This allowed my conflict with my spouse to reduce greatly. I knew my attitude had changed when I found my conflicts were fewer and farther between. I can’t say we don’t ever fight, but when we do, I try to see the situation from my spouse’s perspective. When I can look at this situation healthily, I take responsibility for my part, forgive when I’ve been wronged, and move forward to accomplish God’s work.
Love Like Christ
Sixth, I could love my spouse the way God loves him. Although I can’t say I love my spouse unconditionally, I love him in a deeper way than I did when we first got married. When we were dating, I often saw a relationship as what he could do for me. Now I see it as what I can do for him and how we can move forward together in accomplishing his work. Whether it’s ministering to our local church or discussing our hopes and dreams, I can love him with the same love that Christ has for his people. When I do this, I understand, in a new way, God’s love for his children. Conflict is inevitable, but we don’t have to be in conflict regularly. By observing the steps above, you can choose to see your spouse in a new way. When you choose to see your spouse in the way God sees them, you can see your spouse and your marriage in the same way God sees it.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.