Thoughts on Marriage Conflict

It happened again. An argument. Even as I sit and write I cannot remember what the argument was about. In all likelihood the argument was a direct result of something one of us said that the other chose to take in the worst possible light; the assumed detection of a voice inflection that changed a normal question into an accusation. “What did you have for lunch?” morphs into, “What did YOU have for lunch?” and BOOM it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Why does marriage have to be such a dogfight, a fight to communicate, a fight to have, receive and give grace? Why does it have to be a fight to give worth and value, a fight to continually seek the best and want the best for your partner? Why does it feel like a daily grind to put off selfishness and self-centered behavior?

The reality that makes marriage work is an unashamed commitment to marriage as a covenantal relationship as opposed to a consumer relationship. In his great book, “The Meaning of Marriage”, Tim Keller reminds us of the danger we face today,

“In contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit-that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back-then we ‘cut our loses’ and drop the relationship. This has also been called ‘commodification’, a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships, and so the very idea of covenant is disappearing in our culture.”

When we covenant in marriage we recognize that God is using this union to sharpen, refine and sanctify us. The commitment to the covenant supersedes how either of us “feels” at any given moment, because it is sustained by the God who initiated the covenant to begin with. Tragically, if we aren’t watchful, we will quickly move our marriage from a relationship of covenant to one of consumer and treat our spouse like our cell phone or cable tv provider.

So, how do we combat this danger? A couple thoughts.

First, treat your personal selfishness as the main problem of your marriage: Keller again; “If two spouses each say, ‘I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,’ you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.” Confession, I have to remind myself of this multiple times a week.

Secondly, take your marriage, but not yourself seriously: One prayer request I right down each morning is for Jessica and I in our marriage. If I take our marriage seriously, I need to battle for it in prayer. Also, most of the “spats” Jessica and I get in could either be avoided, or are ended, when I realize I’m being too uptight. The solution is for me to laugh at myself or the situation. Laughing at your own ridiculousness cures many ailments.

Finally, remember that your wife was your beloved bride, before she was the mother of your children. Remember her always for who she was to you at first and act and treat her accordingly. Ann Voskamp wrote about it beautifully here.

Friends since marriage is a dogfight, lets be sure we are fighting with our spouse against our enemy instead of with our enemy against our spouse.

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