3. When conflicts are left unresolved. The problem with unresolved conflicts is that they are a great stumbling block to real oneness in your marriage. Each conflict that you allow to be swept under the rug will actually become a brick in a wall that blocks any real companionship, and will ultimately hinder your entire relationship. Eventually, as the wall grows between you, it will begin to feel like you are living with a stranger because of the lack of relationship.
Why are conflicts allowed to remain unresolved in a marriage? The reasons are simple according to Scripture, however, they are also very ingrained within our hearts. When you allow selfishness, pride, and stubborn self-will to rule in your heart, you will be kept from taking the biblical action required to resolve any conflict (Prov. 28:25) (James 3:16). What can you do to remove these hindrances?
(a) Humble yourself before God and ask Him to give you a willing heart to obey His commands in reference to each unresolved conflict in your marriage (1 Peter 5:5-7).
(b) Go to your mate as quickly as possible and lovingly begin a dialogue about each unresolved issue (Matt. 5:23-25). Remember, the longer you wait, the harder your heart will get (Heb. 3:7-8). If you want to determine why this conflict has remained unresolved, simply determine your personal fault in the matter. Humility will cause you to then confess this fault to your mate first (Matt. 7:5). Ask his or her forgiveness and discuss exactly what you will do in the future to keep yourself from failing here again (Eph. 4:31-32).
(c) Pray together and ask God for the power of His Spirit to do what you’ve agree upon (James 5:16).
Don’t get robbed by your pride and stubbornness of the blessings you could enjoy in your marriage. Get to work resolving those unsettled issues today! If you would like a more in-depth look at how to resolve these issues see Volume 2 Issue 1 and Issue 3, Volume 3 Issue 3 and Issue 4, and Volume 4 Issue 3 of this publication.
4. When you have only surface communication. A fundamental component of every strong marriage is the ability to communicate. The more superficial the communication within a marriage the greater will be the struggles in every other aspect of the relationship.
For example, poor communication skills will greatly hinder you from resolving your conflicts because you won’t be able to talk about the issues in a meaningful way. In addition, without meaningful conversation you won’t have any real depth of friendship with your spouse. You won’t ever get to discuss the really important issues of your relationship. Therefore, failing to communicate naturally puts you in a very dangerous position in your marriage.
Therefore, consider what hinders good communication. There are three areas you should consider. When you display sinful attitudes toward your mate, use sinful words, or take sinful actions an immediate roadblock occurs in your ability to communicate. Let’s look at these three areas in particular.
(a) Do you realize that before you ever finish the first sentence of any conversation that your spouse can detect your attitude? If your mate detects an arrogant, bitter, or disrespectful attitude the walls will go up immediately (Prov. 21:2) (Acts 8:23) (Eph. 5:33). Likewise, if your partner detects an indifferent attitude or you display an unwillingness to discuss an issue, you have just set up a real barrier that will frustrate any meaningful conversation.
(b) In the same manner, the words you choose will also dramatically affect your ability to communicate. If you use harsh, hateful, and condemning words to simply win an argument, you may triumph in the exchange, but ultimately, you will be the loser (Prov. 15:1) (Ps. 109:3) (Luke 6:37). Rather, why not choose words that are gentle and forgiving, words that build up your loved one? With these words God will be well pleased.
(c) In addition, you may have good intentions and yet frustrate your attempt to communicate by the actions you take as you dialogue. Do you dominate a conversation, refuse to listen, and then interrupt your spouse when he or she tries to respond (Matt. 6:7) (James 1:19-20) (Prov. 18:13)? Or, do you twist your mate’s words, bring up his or her past failures, and then shift the blame without admitting your own faults (Ps. 56:5) (Phil. 3:13) (Gen. 3:9-13)? These are just a few of the sinful actions that can frustrate your ability to communicate.
The longer you communicate in this way, the more superficial your conversations will become. The result will be a loss of companionship and a further descent into this danger zone. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at how to communicate effectively, please read the chapter on communication in my book Married and How To Stay That Way.
5. When you engage in a power struggle. Are you in competition with your spouse to see who will control the direction of your family? Do you fight over who will have the final word when decisions are made? Do you undermine your mate’s authority by speaking disrespectfully to him or her in front of your children? If so, you are in a power struggle with your spouse.
Why is a power struggle so dangerous for your marriage? Because when you battle and contend for control you are undermining the very purpose for which you are married, oneness. God has called you to work together as a unit, not struggle to defeat your own teammate. A power struggle is a very serious issue because it reveals that you are missing the most unifying element of your marriage, a trusting love for each other.
The prophet Malachi revealed this to be the reason the Jews argued with God and resisted His authority. They simply did not trust God’s love. He reminded them of their words: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ (Malachi 1:2). When any partner questions the love of their spouse, this will lead to division and separation between them. How do you solve this dilemma?
First, you must both acknowledge that this power struggle is sin and repent before God because you are violating your call to oneness (Gen. 2:24). The battle for control is the proof that you are working for yourself and not for the unity and harmony of the relationship.
Next, you must choose to willingly submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph. 5:21). Submission is what unifies and makes you one. However, be careful to note that submission is a two-way street. If either partner feels dominated, controlled, or manipulated by the other, you can’t work as a team. Mutual submission is first an attitude of the heart, which is then translated into your behavior. You demonstrate submission by your willingness to listen and receive from your mate.
A willing heart like this is what motivates you to seek understanding of your mate’s needs, which naturally creates an even greater oneness. The apostle Peter described this oneness when he exhorted:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.”
1 Peter 3:7-8
Clearly, Peter is encouraging husbands to be sensitive, compassionate, and understanding of their wives to enable a oneness of mind and ultimately an effective prayer life. Consequently, a deeper spiritual relationship results because you are laboring together in prayer for a common goal.
Once you begin to experience this oneness of heart and mind, the power struggle is over, and it becomes relatively simple to find agreement in your decision making. Agreement is found because you are demonstrating love and seeking mutual compromise with one another. Your understanding and tenderness of heart toward each other is all the result of getting rid of the power struggle.
Therefore, seek ways to please your loved one instead of seeking to please yourself and you will short-circuit the power struggle (Rom. 15:1-2).
Click here if you missed Identifying Danger Zones in Your Marriage – Part I
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please visit Covenant Keepers
Excerpt republished with permission from Covenant Keepers by Pastor Steve Carr, Copyright 2013