Friday, February 26, 2010

soul food: truly, madly, deeply stuck (conflict)

OK, it's time again for me to recite what I heard in church.

But before you just click off this post and think, "Oh no! Here she goes getting all preachy again!" Just remember this: MY CHILD WAS KICKED OUT OF THE NURSERY so I could record this message and bring it to you, mighty internet. So read it and then, PLEASE, if you must ... boldly lie and tell me that these posts have had a profound positive impact on the health of your marriage. Because if all I get is crickets on this, I will feel even worse than I already do about not sitting in with Henry four weeks ago.

Alrighty then! After that nice little segue...

I thought that the service I went to two weeks ago was the last in this marriage series, but I was wrong. In my opinion, the two services that came after the chemistry service were by far, the BEST of all. These last two services have to do with resolving conflict. Which is a very important topic to cover, because what relationship doesn't have a healthy dose of conflict every so often?


Why is it, that the most fierce anger and resentment and hurtful words that we have, are usually directed at those that we love the most?

Why is it, that those that we care so deeply for, usually get the worst of us?

It is because, our guard is up when we interface with the outside world. For our mental health, we need to put up filters and watch what we say and whom we say what to. But when we are home, we are within our comfort zone and our guard comes down. And out comes the little (or big) devil within us.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you...? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? (James 4.1 NLT)
The real conflict is within US.

(Us, as in, YOU and ME.)

(Not US as in the United States. Although some could argue that the real conflict is in the US but that's a topic for a different post. On a different day. Maybe this weekend. I've got a really good story to tell you.)


Learning 1: The reason we have EXTERNAL conflict is because we have INTERNAL conflict.
You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them... (James 4:2 NLT)
There are fights within our relationships because WE are not getting what WE want.

Learning 2: The basis for our internal conflict is because we're not getting our own way.
... Yet you don't get what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong -- you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:2-3 NLT)
(Check me out quoting scripture like a pro. Yo!)

When we don't get what WE want, we will go to extremes to change someone else's behavior. We yell louder. We intimidate. We give the silent treatment. We might even go so far as to withhold intimate relations <- sex. DSC_0225

No one but you, can live up to YOUR expectations. So don't even waste your time nor energy by putting them on someone else.

Here are some HEALTHY ways to handle conflict as a couple:

Principle #1: Understand many conflicts are PERPETUAL.

Action #1:
Identify what YOUR issues are. (Better known as: what ticks you off?)

Action #2:
Learn what you can live with. (Better known as: find some grace and get over it.)

It is estimated that 70% of conflicts in every relationship are perpetual and only 30% of couples are able to move towards resolution through forgiveness. The #1 cause of divorce is a hard heart toward the opposite spouse. There is no communication and no resolution of conflict. Instead, there is hurt and bitterness and resentment that continue to perpetuate and when people finally realize it's time to repair the relationship, a lot of damage has been done and people might believe that it is too late.

What separates a GOOD marriage from a BAD marriage is not the absence of conflict: it's the way that spouses deal with conflict in a HEALTHY way.


Principle #2: Resolve conflict through FORGIVENESS.

Action #1:
Be TRUTHFUL. Communicate. Do not hide issues. If it's been too long and there has been too much neglect and you do not feel like you can communicate truthfully, seek help.

Action #2: Be LOVING. Touch, forgive, extend gentleness.

In serving our spouse = we are served.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
Our minister indicated that when he officiates weddings, he will tell the newlyweds that they are NOT compatible. They each have their own expectations and they don't even know yet just how different they really are. They come from two different families with two different histories. One family might be on the east coast. One might be on the west. One might be a morning person, one might not. One may be an introvert, the other an extrovert. One likes romantic comedies. One thinks that romantic comedies bite.

No relationship is perfectly compatible on every level. But in the beginning, in the early days of marriage, you might be so BLINDED by love that you don't even realize that rough waters or 200 foot drops may lie ahead. If you go in to a marriage realizing full well that there may be times of turbulence, but as a couple, you possess the ability to navigate through those difficult spots successfully, you will ultimately be stronger for it.


There should be some rules of engagement, or ground rules in your relationship:

1) No swearing. (Unless my lips were sewn together I might have a problem here. I'm just being truthful. Refer to Principle #2, Action Item #1, above.)

2) No hitting.

3) No breaking things. (Like Blackberries. We all have our weaknesses. I curse like a sailor.)

4) No "threatening" divorce.

5) Name some more... surely you can think of at least one?

If you break a ground rule, you have crossed the line and you need to resolve the conflict and ask for forgiveness.

Remember this:

A healthy marriage demands a fair amount of neglect. You have to learn to overlook certain things. Do not make corrections every time you see things done in a way you don't approve.


You should be able to have a weekly conference with your spouse where you allow each other an opportunity to speak. Not sure where you should start? Well, here are some questions you might consider:

1) What are you concerned about?

2) What do you wish for?

3) What are you going to do to make things happen?

If you are not able to resolve conflict, your relationship will dissolve.

And if you cannot have a civil discussion with your spouse, get help.

Now, what is the purpose of backgammon pictures scattered throughout this post?


Well, the reason is two fold.

1) I typically like to include pictures that are somewhat applicable to a post. And since I couldn't find any good pictures of us scowling at each other, I opted for these photos of backgammon, instead.


2) The first year that we were married, Charlie's father gave us a backgammon set that had once belonged to him and Jeanne (Charlie's mom). I didn't know the first thing about backgammon, but my husband taught me. And almost every night, we had the ritual of playing a game of backgammon to help us unwind. Sitting around our small kitchen table with a backgammon board between us, is one of the most wonderful memories I have of our first year of marriage.

As the tradition goes, we'll usually pour ourselves a glass of wine (or cup of hot tea) and we'll sit down and play for an hour. Or more. And we connect. We talk about stuff. We sort through issues. We discuss what's on our mind. If we've been having a particularly difficult day and we don't feel much like talking, backgammon brings us together and helps us to connect. At least until Charlie rolls a few double sixes and bumps all of my pieces on to the center board as he scurries his pieces home while laughing, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA! I'm going to win, you're going to LOSE!!"

And then I get mad. And I consider sleeping on the couch. Until I remember that I hate to sleep alone. So I forgive him, on the condition that he lets me win next time.

Which he never does.

But this is a perpetual problem that I have learned to live with.


  1. I DO find these posts helpful. :)

    My husband and I are both intense, argumentative sorts who love a good debate. That's great for deep conversations with strangers at the pub, but a little problematic in a marriage.

    We've started adopting suggestions from "We Love Each Other But ..." when we argue, and our huge explosive arguments have disappeared. Completely. I kid you not.

    The two big lessons that have changed how we fight (over things that do matter enough to even bring up) are these:
    1. Anyone can call a timeout, but we must return to the discussion after a reasonable cooling down period. As soon as either of us feels like (or sees the other) starting to get emotional, we back off.
    2. Don't counterpunch. If you're busy formulating your responses to your spouses argument, you're not listening to the content of what they're saying with an open mind. I struggle with this and call a LOT of timeouts.

    Lucas has learned to live with the fact that I will lose my cell phone, and frequently, and I have learned to live with the fact that he really doesn't understand that dirty clothes belong in a basket. It's okay. We agree on the fact that we love our daughters, and that our job is to guide them to be productive people who don't need us at all, and we make each other laugh. HARD!

  2. I like the sermon recap posts!

    oh and I swear too. But I didn't before we had kids. Seriously, I didn't swear before. I was 32 weeks pregnant with twins and I got fed up (not with my husband, with the doctors, nurses, tests, strangers, pain everywhere, lack of sleep) and started cursing. And now I pretty much curse every time I'm frustrated and out of earshot of the babies. Lucky for me, my husband thinks it's hilarious :)

  3. Another great post! I love the backgammon pictures. My husband and I also play, though not as often these days.

    Our number 1 family rule is be nice. This applies to sportmanship when playing a highly competitive round of backgammon (we both hate to lose!), or a difference of opinion about money, parenting, in-laws...whatever.

    My own personal rule for conflict is don't be passive aggressive. I see, all to often, how passive aggressive behavior, particularly within families, can make things worse. Sometimes I'm too direct for my own good, but at least I don't stew over things like my mother or MIL!

  4. "some questions you might consider:

    1) What are you concerned about?

    2) What do you wish for?

    3) What are you going to do to make things happen?"

    These are great questions outside of a marriage relationship - widowed & divorced, I could ask these questions of myself when I get bogged down and unmotivated.
    Thanks for this!

    ~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

  5. Great post, and I'm not even lying. :)

    My husband is dirty, smelly, doesn't clean up, doesn't attend kids sports or academic events, leaves his furs around to stink up and dry, lets the dog sleep on the bed (even though I'm allergic to his dander, and its gross) watches to much TV, doesn't clean up (I know, I said it twice), doesn't brush his teeth, chews snuff (ugh), and only takes care of his things (plane, snow-go, etc) but not mine (snow-go, car, etc).

    But, I'm only telling you, cause he doesn't know that half that stuff bothers me. Cause I just don't care. I had to think LONG and hard about anything that bothered me about him cause even if it does, oh well. (unless I'm REALLY mad!)

    My aana told me once (my grandmother) that I'll never find anyone who's as "good as I am" in my own eyes, so I should just be happy with what I have. And I have a husband who really, REALLY loves me, and even better, really respects me.

    So, after the kids are in bed rather than reading my books at night, I curl up with a glass of wine under his arm and "watch" the sportsman or military channel with him. (And funny thing is, I've learned a lot from the military channel!)

  6. Enjoyed the "preachy" post yet again. Thank you for bringing us these reminders. Perhaps I shall ask my husband to teach me cribbage...

  7. I think these posts are great and totally not preachy. Thank you for sharing.

    I think one rule about conflict should be to never yell at each other. No real communication is going on when someone is yelling.

  8. Thanks Jenna for taking the time to stay and listen to the sermon and post this for all of us.

  9. The Marraige series is a good one, a reminder and a eye opener, even for us old folk.
    This was in fact the study we invited you guys to join us in. Quite interesting with couples of various back grounds and ages. Have you gotten to the "Sex" yet. That was the topic of tonights group.I can't wait to hear what you post after that video ;o) The groups discussion after the video was very open and honest.
    On Monday night there is a group of ladies from your church that will be starting the Marraige study and I'm vacillating with the thoughts of should I go or pass. I'm sure the dynamic of just women will be so much different than couples.
    Anyway, you have a way of reaching people and stimulating their thoughts...keep on writing girl!
    Debra ((*.*))

  10. Oh ... and I gave up cussing for Lent ;)

  11. Don't have a lot of time to comment, but I wanted to let you know that I LOVE the soul food posts and we've really been using the things that we've read about in our marriage! (10 yrs, 3 kids!) THANK YOU! And Henry is a 2 yr old boy ... just like my 2 yr old boys. He'll grow out of it - in the meantime, it's a good time he's absolutely adorable :)