How to Defuse Conflict and Make Your Marriage Even Better

By Daniel Fleet

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In 1 Samuel we read that David and Michal fell in love at a young age and were married. Difficult circumstances befell them and David made poor choices so that in the end David and Michal reached a point where they could not stand to be near each other. One narrative puts it this way: “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart (1 Chronicles 15:29, KJV).”

There is a point that jumps out from this story: People who were once madly in love with each other are capable of reaching a point in their relationship where they literally despise each other. How does this happen? The simple fact of the matter is the more intimate the relationship the more chance there is of deep and lasting conflict.

There is a principle known as the inevitability of conflict that suggests that the closer people become in a relationship the more likely conflict is to occur. Researchers Dudley Cahn and Ruth Abigail note, “The inevitability of conflict principle runs contrary to the idea that, if we look long and hard, we can find people with whom we can share conflict-free lives. It means that we should cease our efforts to find perfect people and learn how to manage the conflicts we are sure to have with those closest to us.” These social scientists are simply stating what God’s Word teaches us over and over again.

While conflict can be messy and hard to navigate there are several steps that couples can take to manage conflict in their lives in order to produce peaceful marriages that are pleasing to God, a testimony to the world, and mutually satisfying to both partners.

1. Live in light of a greater purpose

When a husband or wife understands that they belong to Jesus Christ it changes their outlook on life. This point can be easily lost on those of us who have been saved a long time. We need to be reminded that our marriage reflects the power of Christ in our life. Those who belong to Christ do not have perfect lives, but their life does have a grander purpose and a peaceful marriage is part of God’s plan.

Peaceful marriages and happy couples are important because they are a testimony to the lost world that Jesus makes a difference in one’s life. In his book, The Peacemaker, Ken Sande notes, “Conflict also provides opportunities to encourage others to trust in Jesus Christ. When you are involved in a conflict, your opponent and various bystanders will be observing you closely. If you behave in a worldly way, you will give nonbelievers yet another excuse for mocking Christians and rejecting Christ. On the other hand, if you display God’s love and respond with unnatural humility, wisdom, and self-control, those who are watching you may wonder where you found the power to behave like that, which may open the door to introducing them to Christ.” Knowing Christ and living for Him is the greatest step to a happier marriage and managing marital conflict.

2. Treat your spouse with civility

When civility is present in a relationship positive conflict outcomes are more likely. Again, Cahn and Abigail write, “civility requires that we come into the presence of others with a sense of awe and gratitude, rather than a sense of duty and obligation.” Christ expects us to respect each other and interact with kindness on a constant basis.

While there are moments of disappointment or frustration in any marriage, respect and civility should always be present. Civility is constituted by an attitude of respect toward others manifested in our behavior toward them; that respect is not predicated on how we feel about them. Civility requires that we are mindful of others around us and aware of the impact our behavior has on them. Paul instructs husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 is to love and respect one another and treat each other with same kindness that Christ expresses to the church.

3. Make more deposits than withdrawals in the relationship

Often people evaluate their relationships based on the value they find in them and that value is assessed by cost and reward ratios. William Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs, introduces the idea of a “love bank” to illustrate this point inside of a marriage relationship: “Figuratively speaking, I believe each of us has a Love Bank. It contains many different accounts, one for each person we know. Each person either makes deposits or withdrawals whenever we interact with him or her. Pleasurable interactions cause deposits, and painful interactions cause withdrawals.”

Harley continues to propose that the account in a persons Love Bank fluctuates depending on the type of interactions he or she has with their partner. Simply put, sometimes there is a cost associated with the interaction and sometimes there is a reward associated with the interaction. It stands to reason then that each spouse in a marriage relationship should seek to add value to the other person in order to successfully navigate the complexities of conflict.

4. Work together as a team

Couples should realize that their marriage is bigger and better when the two of them work together as one unit. The Bible says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Furthermore, there is a principle in Ecclesiastes 4 that says that two are better than one. When a man and woman unite, not just psychically, but spiritually, mentally, and emotionally they are able to better manage conflict and become stronger as a result.

5. Listen

Listening is not an easy skill but it is one that can and should be learned by all married couples. Listening communicates to your spouse that you value them as a person and as you listen and pay attention to them they are able to open up their heart. Deeper intimacy and trust are the fruits of listening. When we listen we show the other person how much we value, love, and appreciate them.

Listening is not just hearing, but also paying attention to the other person. Emphatic listening means you listen, not only with your ears, but also with your eyes and with your heart. You sense and feel what your spouse is trying to communicate to you more than just the words they are speaking.

This is the kind of listening that builds intimacy between couples and helps them work through conflict in constructive and helpful ways. Mediation lawyer, Brigid Duffield, writes, “Often, we increase conflict by talking and restating our opinions. Stop and listen to what the other person is saying. What you thought you heard may not be what they said.” Listening allows for proper reflection and understanding during communication processes.

6. Never forget the power of prayer

We believe in prayer but too often we utilize our relationship with God as a last resort. God has the ability to change the hearts of people and often He is the only and best solution to conflict management in marriage. Paul wrote to Timothy, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men… that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty to all that call upon him in truth.”

While conflict is inevitable in marriage these simple steps can help all of us have happier homes and better marriages.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

A Book Recommendation By Daniel Fleet

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Being a perfect dad is impossible. Being a good dad isn’t. But for most men being a good dad doesn’t come naturally. It takes hard work, determination, grit, and a lot of prayer. I have two young daughters that I adore and I remind myself frequently that I only have one shot at raising them. I’m not a perfect dad but I want to be the best dad I can be for them. Several men at church told me I needed to read Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker. I recently finished it and thought it was an excellent book. Meeker is a pediatrician who has twenty years counseling young women and weaves stories throughout the book help make the truths she presents applicable.

Our culture is at war with femininity and it is pulling the very best out of our girls. It’s a cruel world and it’s a dad’s job to stand in the gap between his daughter and the world and be the warrior who fights evil. I may have dramatized this a bit but it’s the way I feel and most men like to be called warriors (including me). Meeker (2006) writes to dads, “We have a popular culture that’s not healthy for girls and young women, and there is only one thing that stands between it and your daughter: You” (p. 28). The most important man in any daughter’s life is her daddy.

If you’re a dad and you have daughters under the age of 18 you need to read this book. I want to encourage you to set aside some time to sharpen your dad skills and become a better version of the dad you already are.

Keys to a Happy Marriage

By Daniel Fleet

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Your marriage is a wonderful and unique gift that God has entrusted to you. God teaches us that the relationship you have with your spouse is to be exclusive and enjoyed! It’s easy for life to get busy, and often one of the first things placed on the backburner is our marital relationship. I want to encourage you today to stop and take inventory of your marriage and be sure that you’re doing the following:

Prioritize your marriage

Between our commitment to our kids, extended family, church, school, and work it’s easy to misplace value on the most important human relationship in our life. Coach John Wooden said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” It’s important to love your kids and value them, but don’t sacrifice your marriage in the process. When the marriage relationship is right the children often fall into place. Be sure that your marriage is at the top of your food chain!

Plan your marriage

Planning is a fundamental key to success. Confucius once said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” If successful people are people who plan, why not plan your marriage?  Plan to spend time with your spouse each week, plan to say something special to them when you greet each other after work, and plan several times together throughout the year for the two of you to connect.

Protect your marriage

Make sure that your marriage is an exclusive relationship that you protect. I may be old school in my thinking but I believe that intimate conversations should be reserved for your spouse. It has been proven that self-disclosure is a gateway to intimacy. Make your spouse feel special by reserving parts of your heart only for them.

Spring is a great time of year to take stock of your marriage and recommit yourself to your spouse. Schedule a date night soon and love the mate God has blessed you with!

How to Wise Up

By Jesse Becker

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I have two boys, ages 11 and 7. They’re great kids with lots of energy. They love climbing trees, building forts, and wrestling each other or me! They’re growing at alarming rates it seems–either that, or their pants keep shrinking.

As their dad I have a God given responsibility to help them grow in wisdom. That’s an ongoing job. Everyday I am presented with lessons to teach them and guide them through. I wish I could say that I’ve masterfully handled every situation with grace and wisdom; but honestly, I’m learning as much or more as they are as we go. I am glad though that God has all the answers I need in His word and the godly counsel He has supplied around me.

Just like in my family, my Heavenly Father wants to impart His wisdom to me. He makes it readily available primarily through time in His word. It’s just up to me to spend the time seeking it there. In conjunction with reading the Bible, I believe memorizing scripture is key to learning wisdom. And what both of these actions do is help us get into the presence of God and remain there. As the second verse of Be Thou My Vision reminds us, reading God’s word and hiding it in our heart is a key to wising up.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

“For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2:6

A Happy Marriage

By Daniel Fleet

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Have you ever seen a married couple that looked happy and content? I know I have. I have seen young, middle aged, and older couples that looked happy with their marriage and with their life. Like me maybe you wonder why they are happy. Did they get lucky and marry the “right” spouse? While some couples may be more compatible than others, the answer is a resounding no! Happy marriages happen because at least one spouse decided to take responsibility for their marriage.

Gifts Grandparents Can Give

By Jim Ramsey

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How did it happen so fast? It seems like yesterday our three daughters were still at home and our lives were caught up in the daily project of seeking to steer them in the right direction in life. We now have twelve grandchildren and despite the normal challenges that come with the territory, we love being grandparents. What a privilege and what a responsibility as well! They have been entrusted to us and, as grandparents, we can help them by giving them the following gifts:

Giving LIFE to Motherhood

by Teri Dorrell

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“Mooooom, I need you!” That can be a glorious call or words that make you want to hide. As a mom of seven, I have often heard those words. Being a mom isn’t an easy task, but it is a blessed one.

My goal has been to build a life-long relationship with my children. It is easy to get caught up in the chores of today, or even to be counting the days when they will be old enough to be on their own. However, as moms it is important to remember that influence and investment can and should continue throughout their lives. I have found the acronym: LIFE to be helpful in accomplishing that goal.

Parents, Put Your Skills to the Test

by John Mardirosian

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A primary goal for every parent, early on in parenting, is teaching obedience. Obedience is essential for the home to function properly. This goal can be defined as: teaching your child to obey immediately, completely, without challenge or complaint in order to please their parents and God. As a parent, how are you and your child doing?

Building Family Memories

by Pastor Troy Dorrell

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In the tremendous challenge of raising children, one of the things that will create a bond of affection between teen and child are good memories. Everyone’s heart is endeared to people and places when positive memories are associated with them.