More than I care to admit, I often find myself in a state of conflict with my wife over something that I did, or she did.
Depending on what’s going on, sometimes the problem quickly dissipates, and we thankfully move on. But there are moments when we get stuck. Being stuck in ongoing conflict is draining and unhealthy.
We frequently remind ourselves that our marriage is a relationship between two imperfect people and a perfect God. Even at our best, we are weak, sinful and broken. There will be times when negative and less than desirable attitudes surface, resentments harden, and the once loving and excited couple becomes disillusioned, even wondering, why did we get married?
If this is where you are in your relationship, let me encourage you to use three powerful words to nudge your relationship toward a healthier place.
Please Forgive Me
These words travel in three directions.
First, these words say something about the condition of your heart. You are ready to lay down your weapons of pride, defensiveness, and hardness of heart.
It says that you are repentant, humble and willing to do whatever it takes to change you. You are no longer looking at the other person and what they are saying, how they are behaving, or reacting. You are taking responsibility for you; you recognize your need for personal change.
Second, these words say something about your attitude toward the other person.
When a marriage is in trouble, the marital pain is never one-sided. Saying I am sorry is recognizing that you played a part in the problems in your home.
You are acknowledging that it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. You are more concerned about how the other person is feeling.
When you say, please forgive me, it is also a prayer to the Lord of your marriage. You have not only sinned against your spouse by what you have done and left undone, but you have also sinned against your God.
The gospel tells us that we are sinners, but through Christ, God has done something about the sins, the weaknesses and the flaws that impact our lives. Ephesians. 4:32: God in Christ has forgiven us; Christ loves us. Christ gave himself up for us as a sacrifice for our sins.
By focusing on the gospel, you discover a source of power, strength, energy, hope, resolve to be a different person.
You are able to imitate God. God gives you the power to live a life of love; God gives you the ability to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving toward the other person.
Through the gospel, you discover a new willingness to sacrifice, give up your right for the sake of the other person. This act of giving up oneself for the benefit of the other is the heart of the gospel.
Paul applies this giving up of oneself to husbands: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. The model for love is based on the gospel of Jesus who loves us and gave himself up for us.
Let’s say it another way: saying “please forgive me,” being kind and tenderhearted, forgiving, are byproducts of Jesus at work in our hearts.
What other strategies do you use to resolve conflict in your relationship?
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5 Disciplines for a growing marriage: Falling in Love Again.