Sunday, April 13, 2014

Want to Be Married? Prepare for Conflict!

Why aren't you normal like me? (John, to Linda and Linda, to John)

A friend of mine who was a pastor once said to me, "I never get angry." I laughed so hard I fell to the floor gasping for breath between spasms of roaring disbelief and floods of tears tsunami-ing from my blood-veined eyes.

Everyone gets angry. If you don't get angry then you don't exist. 

Descartes might say, of you:

1. He doesn't get angry.
2. Therefore he does not exist.

Agito, ergo sum.

Linda and I have had couples tell us, "We never fight." Our response is: "then you have a problem." (Denial? Repression? Fear?)

Gary Chapman writes: "Conflicts are a normal part of every marriage. There are no married couples who do not encounter conflicts, for one simple reason - we are individuals. As individuals we have different desires, different likes and dislikes, different things that irritate and please us." (Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married, K 381-91 - what a great book!) 

I am not like Linda, and Linda is not like me, in a lot of areas. What are we to do now that we are married? (40 1/2 years!)

Chapman says:

  1. Accept the reality that you will have conflicts. "Conflicts are not the sign that you have married wrong person. They simply affirm that you are human."
  2. Discover a healthy plan for processing your conflicts. "Such a plan begins by recognizing the need to listen." Chapman suggests three plans:
  3. #1 - After you have heard and affirmed each other's ideas, you are ready to look for a solution to the conflict. "The big word in finding a solution is "compromise."" "In marriage it s never having 'my way.' It is rather discovering 'our' way."
  4. #2 - If #1 does not work, try "meeting on your side." "This means that after you hear each other's ideas and feelings, one of you decides that on this occasion, it is best to do what the other has in mind. This is a total sacrifice of your original idea, choosing rather t do what your spouse desires and to do it with a positive attitude." (Linda and I have done this countless times ith one another, in both big and little things.)
  5. #3 - If neither #1 nor #2 work, you may need to "meet later." This approach says, "I'm not able to conscientiously agree with your idea, and I don't see a place to meet in the middle. Can we just agree for the moment, that we disagree on this? And we will discuss it again in a week or a month, and look for a solution. In the meantime, we will love each other, enjoy each other, and support each other. This will not be a disruptive factor in our marriage."
If you are not married, don't like conflict, and are hoping for a marriage where there's no conflict, you are not ready for marriage. Want to be married someday? Prepare for conflict now. The good news is that addressing conflict in healthy and godly ways strengthens relationships and develops character.

(See Chapman's entire chapter for more explanation and practical examples, plus guiding questions to think about.)