Can't stop fighting?
Hello again. We are back to respond to a topic that was brought up during the 2019 Rosedale Baptist Church Couples Retreat:
“What are some practical things that you can do when you and your spouse are fighting all the time and you feel you are not on the same page anymore?”
Every relationship has its ups and downs. We all want to feel secure in our marriages and feel connected to one another. There are many things that can interfere with our connection to our spouse. No matter how strong our relationship is, if we spend enough time together we will encounter conflict. The Bible calls this a trespass. A trespass is when you cross a boundary into a territory where you don't belong. Sometimes we do that in our marriage with words and actions.
Repeat offenses are hard to recover from. Have you ever thought, "here we go again"? Studies show that previous negative, stressful, and traumatic interactions, especially from childhood, create negative emotional memories in our brain. When we fight; it may trigger a reminder of a painful memory. This tends to intensify our reaction. We may over-react and have a huge blow up with our spouse or under-react by shutting down and walking away. Neither one will bring reconciliation. Our negative memories interfere with our ability to show compassion and empathy resulting in distance.
In the Bible, Christ promises that offenses will come (Luke 17:1). The good news is He doesn't stop there. Christ also tells us how to recover from offenses in a biblical way. "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him" (Luke 17:3). In this passage there are three steps to conflict resolution:
Rebuke is when we explain our offense to someone else. We need to make sure we are communicating our offenses in a manner that doesn't escalate things further. When Cheri and I are in the middle of an argument I need to take a few minutes to pray, calm down, gain perspective, and humility. This helps me to better communicate clearly and concisely.
Repent literally means to change one's mind. When we have offended someone, even unintentionally, we need to try to understand what we did to offend them and try to avoid repeating that offense in the future. This requires empathy. Empathy is when we try to put ourselves in the other persons shoes and imagine how they feel. Empathy requires calmness and receptivity. If Cheri tells me that I hurt her feelings, I need to be calm and receptive, not angry and defensive. While she is explaining what I did to hurt her, I need to take accountability for my actions or words - no matter how small. Then I can ask her for forgiveness for my specific offenses.
Lastly is forgiveness. There is a lot I could say on forgiveness but let's keep this short and sweet. No one is perfect (Rom 3:23). Christ forgave you for your offenses/trespasses. We also need to forgive others who trespass against us (Matthew 6:14-15). Their issues may be different than my issues but we all sin; it may be different sin but it's equal in the eyes of God. Therefore as Christ forgave us we should also forgive others (Ephesians 4:32).
Praise the Lord that Christ came to earth to show us how to live a better more peaceful life. Everyone has the need to be understood. When we rebuke, repent, and forgive we are emulating Christ and growing stronger, more resilient emotional relationships with one another.
Eric & Cheri Winterton
In our book, We Above Me, we dive deeper into conflict resolution and forgiveness.