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My husband Andy and I have been married for nearly seven years, and for the majority of that time I had certain expectations for what a “good marriage” looked like in terms of conflict:
Here’s how I would like arguments to go: we both state our points and explain how we feel. We both acknowledge the other persons feelings. One or both persons apologize. A resolution or compromise is made. We hug, we say “I love you,” and we quickly get back to our usual state of making each other laugh.
If only it were that simple!
My preference sounds great in theory, but in reality most of our fights would go on for thirty, sixty, ninety miserable minutes. We’d both be completely exhausted afterward. Andy would beg me to stop talking, and when I wouldn’t listen he would either shut down or get angry. I don’t respond well to either of those reactions, so in turn I would get more upset. We’d continue in this downward spiral and ultimately choose to drop the conversation. Andy would finally feel relief, but I’d feel worse than ever!
In those moments I would feel unloved and misunderstood. I’d feel weighted down by this inexplicable need to stand up for myself and to not let Andy “get away with” responding poorly. I’d feel it was my responsibility as his wife to teach him how to stay in a hard conversation and not lose his temper. Unfortunately, in standing my ground and insisting that we keep hashing it out, I would lose my temper.
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(Bless my sweet husband’s heart!)
The truth is, we’re likely to cause more hurt feelings if we continue to argue. (Andy is not fooled by the expression “I don’t want to argue, I just want to talk.”) Over time I learned it truly was in both of our best interests to STOP TALKING and take time to cool off. We began to say, “let’s start over” — a phrase I highly recommend using in your own relationship! We watch television in silence for a bit, or spend an hour or two apart, and this time allows us both to cool off and return to a calmer state of mind.
Over the past year and a half we’ve experienced the loss of two children. We have often found ourselves in a state of being on edge. Grief, or any type of stress, can cause a person to be irritable and extra sensitive. If Andy were to chide me every time I acted cranky, or vice versa, we’d be constantly bickering! Thankfully, we discussed early on our mutual desire to not allow our grief to threaten our commitment to one another. We try to remember to show each other grace and acknowledge that we’re both going through a hard time.
At this current stage in our life, we often don’t even have to say, “let’s start over.” We mostly just try keep our mouths shut and forgive one another in our hearts. Choosing to forgive and extend grace is not always easy, but it is always worth it. You may regret the things you say when you’re upset. You will not regret displaying kindness and longsuffering.
I used to think that my attempts to handle conflict were a reflection of my desire to work on my marriage. The truth is, I was trying to work on my husband. I’m finally learning (yes, still learning!) to step aside and let God do a work in my heart. As God changes my heart, my heart for my husband has changed.
“Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (AMP)
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.