To-ma-to, To-mah-to

By Greg Smalley
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Focus on the Family

Healthy conflict can actually be a pathway to deeper intimacy in your marriage.

“Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.” – G. K. Chesterton

Some relationships are more prone to conflict than others, but none are immune. In other words, sometimes you’re gonna fight! But the question you should ask yourselves is, “How can we use this conflict to our advantage?” Smart couples know that the way they respond to their differences is more important than how they resolve them. Healthy conflict can actually be a pathway to deeper intimacy in your marriage.

How? By approaching problems and areas of contention as a team, with each partner striving to understand how the other processes conflict. Even when you disagree, you and your spouse can be quick to express grace and forgiveness. As members of the same team, you can keep short accounts and make ever effort to deal with disagreements immediately, and then leave them behind.

At this point you may be saying, “Wait – our Date Nights are supposed to be fun and conflict-free. Are you suggesting that we now devote an entire date to addressing disagreements?” The answer is a resounding “No!” We don’t advise that you spend your Date Night dredging up contentious issues. Rather, we hope you’ll embrace this date as an opportunity to accentuate the “team” aspect of your marriage. Then, at a later time when conflict does make an appearance, you’ll be better equipped to confront it head-on and work through it together.

Remember, always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and “woo” our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Even as you consider the meaning of “healthy conflict” in your marriage, remember to protect your date night by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Date Night

Step 1:Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Teamwork!

There are many ways you might engage inteamwork on your date. Here arejust a couple ideas:

  • Take a ballroom dancing class together. This is an activity that definitely requires teamwork. Each partner has a specific role to play, and you’ll definitely have to work together as one leads, the other follows, and you learn to recover from your mistakes (assuming you’re not already championship-level ballroom dancers!). There may be moments when you both feel frustrated. But when you’re working together, the dance can be a beautiful thing.
  • Invite some other couples over for a game night, or meet them somewhere for a round of miniature golf. Rather than making it a “men vs. women” evening, play as couples and work together. Brainstorm with your spouse, strategize, and pool your resources. Win or lose, you’ll experience the joy and satisfaction of teamwork.

Step 3: Relax and unwind.

After your activity, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation. Answer the following questions, be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.

  • What was your favorite part of the evening?
  • What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn’t know about me before?
  • What are some of the skills and character traits we utilized during our activity? (Problem-solving, patience, humility, strategizing, self-sacrifice, etc.)

Step 4: Home Sweet Home

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about additional ways you can work as a team during times of disagreement. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

Download Printable Version PDF.

© 2012 Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

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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