Carbohydrates: once they were good, then they were bad, now they’re … both? You probably have heard this, but nutritionists these days believe that some carbs – ones that are more complex and take more work for your body to break down – are actually beneficial. But some carbs that have been overly processed and are too easily absorbed, aren’t.
This is how conflict is in marriage. Some people say that good marriages are conflict-free. Others say if you aren’t fighting, you’re doing it wrong. The truth is that not all conflict is created equal. There’s good conflict that brings a new level of connection, richness, and character to your marriage, and there’s bad conflict that brings distance, emptiness, and grudges. So which kind of conflict tends to define your marriage? Here’s a quick list of two “bad carb” types of conflict, followed by two “good carb” conflict types.
BAD CONFLICT TYPE 1: UNRESOLVED FIGHTS
We’re told in Ephesians to “not let the sun go down on your wrath,” and while that’s not meant to be some legalistic rule, it is a command to not let lingering conflict build up between you and another person. Do your marital fights resolve or do they just slowly fade into the background, festering and resentful, ready to emerge even stronger in the next fight?
BAD CONFLICT TYPE 2: WOUNDING WORDS
How many of your fights are filled with “you always” or “you never.” Do you bring past incidents your spouse has already apologized for? Do you, when things get really heated, find the most sensitive, wounded spot of your spouses soul and attack?
BAD CONFLICT TYPE 3: PETTY ARGUMENTS
Are your fights important, or does conflict escalate over small slights that, if you would just let them go and genuinely move on, would fade away? Chronic fighting over small matters can sometimes be a sign that you aren’t feeling loved or secure in God, and are demanding that security from your spouse.
Do any of those “bad carb” conflicts sound familiar? If so, the good news is you can replace the “bad carbs” with “good carbs.” here are three healthy types of conflict in a marriage.
GOOD CONFLICT TYPE 1: UNIFYING FIGHTS
Do your fights end with a genuine resolution where both sides acknowledge and apologize for what they said or did? Do you [gulp] pray at the end of your fights, even if it’s a bit of a grudging prayer? At the end of your fights does each person feel understood and seen?
GOOD CONFLICT TYPE 2: “SCORCHED-EARTH FREE” WORDS
When you argue do you step back from accusations and instead say “when you do this it makes me feel _____.” Can you acknowledge that, in some cases, your spouse might have wronged you, but the intensity of your feelings are also about your own issues? Do you end fights with kind words? Do you say I love you?
GOOD CONFLICT TYPE 3: IMPORTANT ARGUMENTS
Some things are worth arguing about, and this is especially important in a marriage where one or both parties tend to avoid conflict. A key way for a marriage to grow healthier is for there to be legitimate disagreement that shines light on an area of weakness in you, your spouse, or your marriage. The Bible says that Christians are to be as “iron sharpens iron” in regards to each other, but it doesn’t say that sharpening is conflict-free.
Are you willing to fight in your marriage over truly substantial things? Are you in tune enough with your own feelings that you can admit a legitimate emotional need you have? Can you bring up your point of view in a respectful but clear way to your spouse?
Just like with good and bad carbohydrates, the more you fill your marriage with good conflict and remove the bad conflict, the healthier you will be! So share this post with your spouse and find time this week to discuss together which good conflict you have, which bad conflict you have, and how you can do better. Your marriage will be healthier for it!