I first met Deidra 26 years ago.
I was her boss.
We dated off and on for 3.5 years before getting married on December 30th, 1994.
(Full Disclosure – she disagrees with one of these facts)
I don’t remember what our first conflict was, but I remember some of them got fairly intense.
Each time, though, we were able to get through it.
Through the years, I would like to say that we no longer have any conflict, we just get along and agree on everything.
But if I did, Deidra would disagree about that as well. 😉
Like all marriages, we do still have conflict and I have had to be the recipient of grace more than the giver of grace, but we have made it through every one.
And, no matter how many more we have, we will get through those as well.
I believe there are a few keys to dealing with conflict in marriage, but there is 1 principle that is the greatest indicator and motivator for marital health…
Divorce is just not an option.
Here are some notable differences you will find if the option for divorce is never entertained:
- You choose more wisely – Too many people jump into a marriage too quickly because they have the expectation that they can “jump out” just as fast. Dating is a time to really get to know one another and determine if you really want to spend the rest of your life together. If you fight all the time when you are dating, if there is no long-term attraction, if you always feel like you are playing second fiddle to your girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s wants and needs, you tend to move on and wait for someone better to come along. The longer you wait to decide this person is “the one” because you WILL be with them for the rest of your life, the greater chance the following will happen as well…
- Your motivation changes – When divorce is not an option, you are motivated to work things out. After all, you’re going to be living with this person for the rest of your life and who wants to be miserable? You will find a solution and the strength to forgive. When divorce is an option, you evaluate conflicts based on “is this bad enough/frustrating enough/disheartening enough to go ahead and end this marriage and hope I do better next time?” (And your spouse knows it)
- Your commitment changes – When you know that your spouse is in this for the long haul, you know that they are committed to you and this is an obstacle to overcome, not an end to your marriage. Your commitment moves your focus away from your needs and focuses on your spouse’s needs. This is foundational for a lifetime marriage in love.
- Your decisions change – When you decide that you are going to be with your spouse forever, it changes the way that you make decisions. Decisions based on what “I” want or what is most important to “me” give way to decisions based on what “we” want and what is most important to “us”. This is a powerful change that embraces the reality that God is working to bring a married couple together to be united instead of 2 different people in a relationship.
- God works more intently in you – When we read about Adam and Eve, God instructed men and women to leave their parents and become united to each other. It’s the reason that God hates divorce. It is a painful tearing apart of 2 lives that have joined together. When we follow God’s plan, He is always more active in moving us to health.
- Your expected outcome changes – When divorce is a possibility, you WILL expect to win on things that matter. When you don’t win enough times, you WILL begin to think about getting out. When divorce is not an option, you WILL work towards resolution. Winning no longer means that my perspective was right, it means that WE will figure this out, together.
It’s not a simple thing to take divorce out of the equation if you don’t enter into marriage with this expectation. It’s one that was modeled for me and Deidra by our parents, our walk of faith, and one that we are passing on to our kids.
Fortunately, even if you come from a divorced family, have thought about divorce (or have had a divorce) before, God has the ability to bring healing and completion to these broken experiences in your life. Know that He can restore you and your heart to enter into your marriage with an absolute commitment to each other and along the way, you will find a deeper sense of joy, hope, and love in your life together…even when there is conflict.
What do you find is most crucial to dealing with conflict?