The Power of Healthy Conflict

By Greg Smalley
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Healthy conflict can actually take your marriage to deeper levels of intimacy.

Your marriage needs conflict.

And yet, sadly, people rarely believe this. It’s probably because conflict is a topic that makes many of us feel uncomfortable. It can bring fear to our hearts and remind us of past failures and acts of which we are ashamed. Our lives are pockmarked by battles and arguments with our loved ones, like the one I experienced while returning from a date night with my wife.

“You’re speeding,” Erin warned.

“I’m driving the speed limit,” I snapped. “Quit trying to control me.”

“I’m telling you that the speed limit is 35,” Erin shot back, “and you’re doing 45. You’re going to get a ticket!”

“This is a brand-new road in the middle of nowhere,” I argued. “Why would they make it 35? I’m positive that it’s 45. Besides, why would anyone care if I’m going a little fast on a deserted road?”

Apparently someone cared, as evidenced by the blue and red lights flashing behind me.

And before I could give her that look that says, “Don’t you dare,” Erin gloated, “I warned you. But maybe you’ll learn to believe me after our insurance rates go up.”

This was one of those moments when I desperately wanted to run far away from my wife, but I figured that fleeing my vehicle might present a whole new set of problems for me.

“Any way you’d let me off with a warning?” I begged the officer. “The real punishment will be having to endure the ‘I told you so’ all the way home.”

“You want a warning?” the officer said graciously. “OK, I’m warning you that if you go above the speed limit again, I’ll give you another ticket.”

With that, I was done. Unfortunately, Erin wasn’t finished. After she directed some additional choice words and phrases at me, we spent the rest of the drive home in silence.

You may be wondering, “How could an interaction like that be something my marriage needs?” Let me explain.

Keep reading.

Adapted from Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, published by Howard Books. Copyright © 2012 by Greg Smalley. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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About the Author

dr greg smalley vp of marriage
Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the vice president of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as president of the …

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