Research indicates many couples break up because they do not know how to resolve their differences through communication. This month’s issue of the P31 Woman featured an article on “Fighting Fair” by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray, authors of The Walk Out Woman.
These authors offered useful information for resolving arguments constructively including:
- Select an appropriate time and place to discuss the issue.
- Discuss only one issue at a time and don’t drag up past offensives.
- Try not to interrupt when your spouse is speaking.
- Work towards a compromise or a solution that each person can live with.
- Choose your words respectfully and carefully, and apologize if need be at the end of the discussion for anything hurtful you may have said.
That last tip – to choose our words respectfully and carefully – is something the Bible says a lot about. God knows hostile words breed resentment and aggression, and these are major obstacles to resolving conflicts. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”
Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise [brings] healing.” Here, speaking rashly (hastily, impulsively, and carelessly) is linked with speaking piercing (cutting, wounding, and destructive) words. So when we blurt out in anger, in self-defense or in retaliation, we tend to do so with damaging words that create a larger divide between us and our spouse.
Hastily venting negative emotions may “clear our chest” temporarily, but it only serves to escalate the conflict. The same is true of name-calling, cursing and sarcasm. Each of these word choices will carry you farther and farther away from a solution or resolution.
How much better it is to remain calm and choose our words carefully. Proverbs 15:28 says, “The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering, but the mouth of the wicked blurts out evil things.” Proverbs 29:11 echoes that point, explaining, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check.”
Jesus’ brother James wrote to early Christians advising, “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19). James understood that words have an eternal nature. He knew that once they are spoken, the damage they do cannot be simply erased. He remembered his brother Jesus warning, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).
All couples experience conflict from time to time. Successfully navigating our way through disagreement can leave our marriage – or any relationship - stronger than before. Taming our tongue to communicate effectively and respectfully is key. We do not have to become one of the statistics of divorce. When discussing a problem or issue, keep focused on the goal to mutually resolve the conflict and restore the relationship. Then, carefully choose words that will move you towards, and not away from these goals.
Rachel is a member of the P31 Speaker Team and holds a master’s degree in family communication. Some of her topics include FRUITFUL FAMILES and THE PURPOSE DRIVEN MOM.