Principles for Resolving Marital Conflict

A couple looking like they need some counseling

No marriage is perfect, conflict is to be expected.  It’s how we address the conflict that can make all the difference. Resolving marital conflict takes work, both spouses must first agree what the conflict is, why it’s necessary make change, and whether you’re willing to do the work.

When addressing conflict in marriage, Christian counseling suggests a few Biblical and spiritual ways to move through the challenges of marital conflict.

Set Expectations

The marital relationship is perfectly designed, but not always perfectly represented. You may see “perfect” examples in entertainment, or in your church congregation, and judge your own marriage by these things, but that’s not fair to you or your spouse. It’s important to have realistic expectations with your partner and just as important to stay in a mindset of love when you feel like your partner is falling short.

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Marriage is a powerful way to connect to the outside world as a team — and conflict resolution is naturally a part of good teamwork. Conflict is an unavoidable part of marriage, but you can resolve it if you are both willing to buy into a solution together.

Remember Why You Fell In Love / Stay Honest

Be honest with yourself about what you truly love about your spouse.  Think of the qualities of your partner that you initially fell in love with and take time to meditate on your gratitude for who they really are. Prayer is a powerful tool, and you can pray for an open and honest heart to allow yourself to truly feel the love you have for your partner. 

When there is conflict it’s easy to forget what we love about our spouse.  During these times we can get caught up in stories we tell ourselves that might not always be true. These are stories that support our anger or negative emotions, and we believe them because we like to feel right.  But this isn’t the path for resolution.

Remain truthful about your feelings, the conflict and about what you need or are willing to offer for resolution.  Remember, this is the person you chose before God to be your partner in life, addressing the conflict through prayer and a loving heart can be your best start for moving forward.

Seek Support

The direct and indirect effects of marital conflict can be immensely damaging if we don’t pay attention. For example, child development success depends on harmony in the home. Likewise, your marital situation can only devolve by putting your disagreements on display. 

Some of the most precious parts of a marriage are private, shared only between the two of you — but when there is difficulty resolving conflict, seeking outside support is essential.  Find a sounding board or reach out to your pastor or spiritual director. They are skilled in offering helpful advice that is based in faith and can help get your marriage back on track. God is present in all things and can offer great help if we are wise enough to ask.

Remember that your marriage isn’t just about the bond between two souls: it’s a commitment in the eyes of the Lord, your congregation, your family and friends.  Those who love you want to see your marriage flourish so be sure to pray for support and ask your loved ones for support as well.  Just knowing that you are supported can be enough to help the two of you find a solution to a difficult situation.

There is always a way to extend grace to your spouse and to yourself if you’re dedicated enough to find it. That grace is at the heart of your covenant with God and with each other. Remember that your marriage isn’t just about a bond between two souls; it’s a commitment in the eyes of the world, the church, and your congregation. In the end, you’ll find the solution because you both care more about the marriage than about being right and are able to rise above your conflict.

Learn Compromise Respectful Communication

Remain aware of what emotions and attitudes you are bringing to the relationship.  Pride, selfishness, and resentment can extinguish your marital satisfaction and make conflict resolution an impossible task.  Before expressing your dissatisfaction, make sure you take time to understand why you might be feeling dissatisfied, what your true needs are and how they aren’t being met. Only then are you ready to bring this to your spouse to discuss respectfully and constructively.

If the response you receive is unexpected and evokes frustrations remember Proverbs 14 exhorts us to be “slow to anger,” and part of that precept is taking a moment before reacting in all circumstances, lest we “tempt folly”.  Remain respectful and if there are moments when you realize you were wrong, give yourself permission to move past pride and into humility where grace is found and where solutions lie. From that place, we can begin to find compromise.

Pride, selfishness, and resentment can extinguish your marital satisfaction.Reject these things with your whole heart. You know, with that still small voice within, whether you’re being proud or selfish. You may even be doing things to provoke a reaction, so take the time to understand yourself and your needs before bringing them to your spouse to discuss constructively.

Proverbs 14 exhorts us to be “slow to anger,” and part of that precept is taking a moment before reacting in all circumstances, lest we “tempt folly.” Whatever you uncover, don’t feel guilty or ashamed about it: that’s just another way to deepen your bitterness. 

Give yourself permission to move past pride and into humility, where grace is found and where solutions lie. From that place, we can begin to compromise once again.

Refocus on Your Common Goal

Listen to your spouse. Really understand their point of view — learn what they’re thinking about. Remember the reasons you committed to this relationship forever in the eyes of the Lord and acknowledge that your spouse is here and wants to remain by your side. Sometimes the biggest marital struggle is to simply get back to where you started. Focus on the positive, the truth and let prayer guide your heart.

Of course, there are times when life throws a curve ball and there are huge, fundamental changes in your marriage. But this doesn’t mean you can’t find your way, it’s still possible to find common ground by relying on the strong connection you share and remaining focused on your common goal of conflict resolution.

Even in the case of major life changes, however, you can find common ground by relying on the sense of connection you share.

Your Tools for Marital Conflict Resolution

With you can connect with our frequently asked questions, resources and services that will take your new pastoral role to your destination. Helping couples reconnect in God’s light is a wonderful way to practice your ministry, and with this guide and the other guides available, you can do just that.