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What comes to your mind when you hear the word “conflict”? Most of us do not get warm fuzzy feelings. Depending on our life experiences, our responses can range from an unpleasant thought to absolute fear. As we look at conflict in a marriage, we find it plays out in a number of ways. Some couples go toe to toe. It is an all-out battle to the end, and someone will eventually win. Other couples are different in that one is dominant and the other passive. The fights do not usually last long, as the dominant one quickly overpowers the passive one either verbally or physically. There are a lot of combinations in between, but the bottom line is that very few couples handle conflict in a healthy way.

Look at your marriage and think about your times of conflict. How do you handle them? If you fight to the finish, you get one winner and two losers – the losing spouse and the marriage. If one dominates the other, trust is broken and walls to protect are built. Often, I see couples who seem to be in a conflict pattern. They fight about almost everything. They don’t choose their battles well at all. Repeated and unresolved conflict will eventually kill a marriage.

But what if instead of the road of conflict we switched over to the road of engage. Engage is different. Let’s be honest, every marriage has conflict. It may look different from one marriage to another but it is there. Honestly, if a couple told me they never had conflict, I would think one of two things. They are either totally unconnected or they are not being honest with me. Marriage is designed for conflict! We are different by design, and differences can cause conflict. We either embrace our differences of we let them tear us apart. It took us a long time to figure that out, but when we did our marriage literally turned around. We went from fighting to engaging.

There is so much to learn from the Bible, but there is one short verse that turns conflict into engaging. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” That’s it. Break that down. Listen to your spouse. Really listen and value what they say. Embrace any differences. Take your time before you speak so that you do not say something you will later regret. Finally, control your anger. That will be tough for some of you because you either never have controlled it or you have not controlled it for a very long time. These three steps put the lid on conflict and set an atmosphere for engaging where differences can be resolved and valued.

Prayer: This is a big one for many of us. Pray that with God’s help James 1:19 is written on your heart in such a way that it is always your first response.

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