When it comes to problems and conflict in marriage, we love to keep score. We love to bring up the past and how they hurt us. We love to remember and we are very good at holding on to bitterness. We can’t remember what we ate for dinner, but we can quote every sentence our spouse said to hurt us. This bitterness is just like a score card. It shows how many times you let me down this year and how many times you failed me.
The problem is, as long as we keep score, we’ll never learn how to communicate with our spouse and deal with our problems in a productive way. I know it’s cliché, but we have to practice forgiveness, even when they keep doing the same stupid thing. Instead of keeping score and never accomplishing anything, we have to learn to overcome our sinful desire to argue.
So how do we learn to work through our issues? How do we get through the drama and the scorecard, and communicate in a healthy way?
Start by identifying two important landmines in your marriage:
1. It’s important to know when and where conflicts usually starts.
If it usually happens on Sunday morning while you get ready to go to church, it’s important to prepare to handle the tension. Maybe Saturday night you can talk to each other and say, “Hey in the morning I know we usually fight. We get stressed about getting everybody ready in time. Let’s not do it tomorrow. Let’s pray together right now and promise to work as a team.”
If it’s usually when all the bills are due, recognize it. Is it usually when you are at your mother’s house during the holidays? When you recognize when and where it usually happens, then you can prepare yourself and communicate with one another that you don’t want this to happen. You can’t fix a problem you do not see. One of you has to recognize when and where.
2. It’s important to know how and why conflict usually ends.
Do you usually end a disagreement with yelling and your score card? Does it usually end with you being angry and frustrated? Does it usually end with you shutting down emotionally and just saying whatever? It’s important to recognize how it ends. If it’s ending inappropriately then you have to dig deeper and ask why.
Why do I feel the need to yell? Why do I feel the need to humiliate him or her? Why does he shut down?
Do you yell and get angry because that’s how you can control your spouse? When you yell and get mad maybe you feel like you are in control and your spouse gives in. Why does it end with you getting so frustrated and out of control? Why do you clam up and hold everything in? Why do you call each other names that hurt? If you are not willing to ask “why” you will never be able to fix anything. You must talk about the problems and speak honestly with each other.
The bottom line for all marital problems hinges on your spiritual maturity. If we are embracing a lifestyle of conforming into the image of Christ, then our marriage will reflect those changes.
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.