Focus on the Family

Strategies for Effective Conflict Resolution

In order to maintain our commitment to love, cherish, and honor our spouses, we need to yield ourselves and our rights, first to God and then to one another.

by Ron Blue, Jeremy L. White

Call them debates, conflicts, arguments, or vehement fiscal discussions – every couple will have disagreements. When a man faces a confrontation with his wife, he typically responds in one of three ways. Husbands, which one of these statements best describes the way you react?

  1. I give in. I'd rather give up than fight.
  2. I flee the scene, hoping the problem will take care of itself.
  3. I assert my authority to gain control of the situation and get my way.

Unfortunately, when you give in, flee, or fight over your differences, you will never experience the satisfaction that comes with effective conflict resolution.

Instead, you could find yourself sleeping on the couch.

Wives, when you disagree with your husband about something, which one of these responses best describes your approach to the situation?

  1. I try to get the upper hand through manipulation or hiding the facts.
  2. I challenge my husband—especially when I think I know better.
  3. I pretty much do as he says; things seem to go more smoothly that way.

Again, women aren't the only ones who manipulate and challenge their spouses, just as men aren't the only ones who fight or flee. But it should come as no surprise that none of these options will promote long-term satisfaction or peace in a relationship. Let's look, then, at God's design for effective communication and conflict resolution in marriage.

Biblical Principles

First, let's reflect on the Biblical principles. When husbands and wives commit to one another, we see the outworkings of Christ's relationship with the church, as described in Ephesians 5:28-29: "He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church."

Scripture commands husbands to selflessly love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. It's not difficult to see how, in a perfect world in which these commandments were never broken, marriages would be peaceful, satisfying, and uplifting. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a fallen world, and our natural tendencies are to focus on ourselves and attempt to impose our will on others. Any of my selfish attempts to get Judy to do something "my" way causes communication breakdowns. Those breakdowns often leave ugly scars. Wounded relationships, broken families, and a discouraging lack of peace and satisfaction are just a few of the consequences that can mar a marriage.

Eight Strategies

In order to maintain our commitment to love, cherish, and honor our spouses, we need to yield ourselves and our rights, first to God and then to one another. Over the years, Judy and I have used several strategies to help prevent communication stalemates, blowouts, and breakdowns. If you and your spouse have a difference of opinion, try approaching conflict with one or more of these guidelines in mind:1

1The following information is adapted from Ron Blue and Judy Blue, Money Talks and So Can We (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 28, 35-35.