I wish we who are married could say that we have had a conflict-free marriage. Some tend to be more “exciting” than they should be. I am thankful that my wife and I can discuss things in a civil manner, but as people who have been in previous marriages we have not always had that. I remember hearing one of my favorite evangelists say, “In 50 years, my wife and I have never gone to bed angry at one another.” I sat up because I wanted to know his secret. He continued, “We’ve stayed awake all night, but we’ve never gone to bed angry.”
You may wonder how your marital conflict can stay out of the World War III zone. You may do nothing but fight, yell, scream, and however else you choose to negatively express yourself. I would like to make a few suggestions of things I have learned from experience or from watching and listening to others.
- Understand your role in the relationship. Let me clarify that I am not coming from a “man bosses the woman around and the woman bows down to him” philosophy, nor am I coming from a “woman is the queen and should get whatever she wants even if it leads the couple to bankruptcy” philosophy. Husband and wife, you are partners. God has called the husband to lead the home, but lead does not mean to bark orders. You have a great responsibility to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. That’s called sacrifice. No one dominates the other. You should coordinate not ask permission. Discuss your schedules. Discuss your finances. Be on the same page. If you’re not, ask God to put you on the same page.
- Don’t blow off offenses. You might wonder what I mean by that. I don’t mean to harbor them. When you are hurt or offended, don’t just say, “I’ll get over it” and push it to the side. Eventually it piles up. Before you know it, you have a ton of hurt that explodes like a time bomb. No wonder Paul said in Ephesians 4 to not let the sun go down on your wrath. When you do, it turns into bitterness.
- Put the other person before yourself. The biggest problem I see in marriages is selfishness. Men blow money on boats and lawn mowers, or women spend lavish amounts of money on clothing and put it all on credit. Or the husband acts like a baby until he and his wife go out to his favorite restaurant. Selfishness in relationships expresses itself in many ways. When one is always fighting to win, the other one caves in begrudgingly. When both are type-A personalities who fight for their way, it’s a nightmare. Philippians 2 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” He is talking about humility. I love what Dolly Parton said in the movie “Straight Talk”: “Get down off that cross because somebody needs the wood.”
- To those who may not be married, don’t let the physical cloud your thinking before you marry. Many couples have a primarily sexual relationship prior to marriage and think that marriage is going to be all about good sex and satisfaction. Then reality hits. You tried before you bought, thinking your multiple test drives divorce-proofed your marriage. If you didn’t live together, you were really in for a shock. I’m not condoning living together or having sex before marriage. God planned it this way for a reason. You might say, “Well my marriage didn’t work.” You may have married out of God’s will, or the person you married chose to violate God’s will. God sets pre-marital boundaries because He wants Christ-centered relationships not hormone-centered relationships. He wants a couple to have a good foundation before they ever marry.
I realize that what I have shared definitely contradicts modern thought. I just share what the Bible says about these matters. It is up to us whether we chunk God’s Word out the window or embrace it as the final authority of our life.
Some of these things I learned the hard way. I made mistakes, ignorantly and some knowingly, and I try to help others on this journey. If you want a joy-filled marriage, I recommend this order of priority:
J – Jesus
O – Others
Y – You