"Wounds from a friend can be trusted ..." Proverbs 27:6a (NIV)
When my wife, Barbi, and I were first married, we had conflicts about conflict. Looking back, it's kind of funny because I later went on to write a Christian relationship book called Boundaries in Marriage. Imagine watching us have boundary conversations about how bad our marriage boundaries were.
Barbi's approach to conflict was to avoid it. My approach tended to be more blunt. We'd talk about a problem, and it wouldn't go well. One of us would misunderstand, we would pull away from each other and the problem wouldn't get solved.
One day I asked Barbi, "When we argue, I never stop loving you. Is there anything I can do to make this better for you?"
She thought a minute and said, "Maybe if you let me know you love me before you confront me, that might help."
That was a good idea, so I agreed. The next time I wanted to have a talk with her about a concern, I walked in the room and said something like, "Honey, I just want to let you know I really care about you, and I hope you feel safe with me." Then when I brought up the problem, things went better for her and for us.
This method of having successful conversations went on for a while. As time passed, however, something changed. I needed to bring up an issue, so I began with, "Honey, I just want you to know..." Barbi said, "Stop! It's okay. I know you love me; just get to the problem."
We had a good laugh about it. Over time, she began feeling safe enough not to need reassurance before each conversation. She realized I loved her even in the midst of confrontation, and she was ready to go straight to problem solving.
When God created marriage, He gave us one of His best gifts. He provided a permanent and safe connection for a man and a woman to experience love, joy, meaning and purpose together. Genesis 2:24 says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (NASB). God designed marriage to be a whole-person connection. This means that, more than in any other human relationship, every part of you ideally is to connect and cleave to every part of your spouse. The love you share should be complete as you intertwine your lives and emotions around each other.
Because marriage is such a wonderful type of relationship, confrontation within the marital relationship is very important. Who is better qualified to understand and speak to someone about a problem than the person living life right next to him? You are intimately involved with him. You see the real person, imperfections and all. More than anyone, a spouse should be able to see what her partner's true problems are.
Marriage is not about making each other happy; it is about growing and helping one's spouse to grow. Happiness can and does come to a good marriage. However, it is a byproduct of growth and life — not the goal.
Confrontation brings empowerment, which is the ability to make choices and changes in your relationship. God created all of us to be change agents for each other. We have a responsibility to influence the people in our lives to be the best possible people they can be. For instance, 1 Thessalonians 5:11a says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up" (NIV).
As Barbi and I have learned to confront each other lovingly, directly and effectively, we are often pleased in the change not only in our marriage but also in ourselves. We feel a sense of power that we can make changes and that we have choices. God designed all of us to connect and act, and confrontation helps put the "act" into the connection.
Lord, thank You for the blessing of earthly marriage to display Your heavenly love for me. May I value marriage as all that You designed it to be. Help me move past seeking personal happiness and strive to develop growth in myself and my spouse. I trust You to guide my words and actions when conflict arises so that it can be an opportunity to connect in a deeper way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 4:10, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND: What can you tell your spouse today to help each other feel safer in the relationship?
Common conflict issues may revolve around your responsibilities, money and tasks, but do not stop there. Set aside time to talk with your spouse about the relationship itself. This is where the marriage lives.
© 2014 by Dr. John Townsend. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.
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