AVOIDING SUFFERING IN MARRIAGE PART 10: THE As-Zs OF NEVERS:
C-CONFLICT (Unresolved, Part 2)
Many marriages are characterized by strife and bickering rather than peace and harmony. Couples who have developed harmony are not those who are identical in thinking, behavior, and attitudes – they are not carbon copies of each other. These couples have learned to TAKE THEIR DIFFERENCES through the process of love, acceptance, understanding, and, eventually, complementation.
Because each partner is unique and what each person brings to the marriage is unique, conflict will emerge. There will be numerous conflicts throughout the life of any marriage, and this isn’t bad, its normal. IT IS NORMAL TO HAVE CONFLICT IN MARRIAGE. THE ISSUE IS NOT THE CONFLICT OR EVEN THE SOURCE OF THE CONFLICT BUT THE RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT. THE PROBLEM IS NOT CONFLICT BUT UNRESOLVED CONFLICT. How you respond to the conflicts and deal with them are the real issues and real determiners of the direction of marriage.
Basically there are two kinds of marriages. Those which continue to be plagued by conflict and those which resolve the conflict in such a way as to reconnect, bring harmony, and enjoy the blessings of each other as CONNECTED blessed couple.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the two kinds of marriages is by way of the following diagram.
Note that I have divided the stages of marriage with A,B. C, D. The goal is to go from A to D and not get stuck in C.
Stage A - Differences. The simple fact is that men and women are wired very differently. Neither is wired incorrectly, just differently. A man’s maleness and a woman’s femaleness permeates everything about him and her. Our identity simply cannot be separated from our inherent maleness or femaleness. Our sexual identity is not part of us, it is inseparable from who we are. One might have blue eyes, dark or light colored hair, but these things are extraneous to who we really are. Sexual identity is more akin to age. Whether we are seven or seventy, our age permeates everything we are and do – age is not just a part of us. Our sexual identity as male or female is who we are. Furthermore, each person will be male or female throughout all of eternity. That maleness or femaleness goes far deeper than the parts of our plumbing and reproductive organs. The modern unisex idea is unbiblical and harmful. While in past generations many stereotypes of the jobs and positions of men and women were somewhat unbalanced, they were still more healthy that modern unisex concepts. It really does not matter the role of a male or female as much as their maleness or femaleness in those roles. To understand the basic concepts and differences between male and female brings many advantages: it keeps partners from trying to change the female into a male and the male into a female, and it enables us to learn, appreciate, enhance, and complement the differences. Men are suppose to be malelike and women are suppose to be femalelike. I would add that to be malelike does not mean to be a bully or a whimp. The idea is to be a gentleMAN not a gentleWHIMP. What often happens with couples is that the very differences that attracted them become no longer attractive. For example, many men will be attracted to the female and in some part due to her responsive and impetuous personality only to berate her later for not being logical and more thoughtful or rational. Anyway…the point here is that men and women are different and when we get married we must avoid at all costs trying to make our partner conform to our nature. Perhaps I will develop this further in the future. But for now, I would like to list common complaints from husbands and wives about each other.
Common complaints from wives – what woman say about men:
1) They don’t share their feelings or emotions enough. It’s like they grew up emotionally handicapped.
2) They seem to go into a trance when they’re watching sports or when I bring up certain subjects. They’re not able to handle more than one task or subject at a time.
3) Men seem to think they can do things better, even when they can’t. And they won’t take any advice, even it if helps them.
4) They don’t listen well. They’re always trying to fix our problems.
5) Men need more intuition – get off the factual bandwagon.
6) Men need to learn to enjoy shopping like we do. They just don’t know that they are missing.
7) Men need more sensitivity, concern, compassion, and empathy.
8) I wish men weren’t so threatened by women’s ideas and perspectives.
9) They’re so overinvolved in their work and career. They want a family but they don’t get involved.
10) Sex – that’s the key word. Don’t they think about anything else? They’re like a microwave oven. Push the button and they’re cookin’. Their On button is never off.
11) Men think too much. There’s more to life than thinking.
12) I wish he didn’t think he always has to define everything. I feel as if I’ve been talking to a dictionary. Every week for the past year my husband has said, “What do you mean? I can’t talk to you if I don’t understand your words. Give me some facts, not those darn feelings!” Well, sometimes I can’t give him facts and definitions. Man shall not live by definitions alone!
13) I don’t think men understand the difference between sharing their feelings and what they think about their feelings. They tend to intellectualize so much of the time. Why do men have to think about how they feel? Just come out with it unedited. I wonder if the emotional side of man threatens him? Of course you can’t always control your emotional responses. So what?
What about men? What frustrates them about women? It's generally the OPPOSITE of what women say frustrates them about men. What men said about women:
1) They are too emotional. They need to be more logical.
2) How can they spend so much time talking? When it’s said, it’s said. So many of them are expanders. I wish they would get to the bottom line quicker and at least identify the subject!
3) They’re too sensitive. They’re always getting their feelings hurt.
4) Why do they cry so easily? It doesn’t make sense to me.
5) I think most women are shopaholics. Their eyes glaze over when they see a shopping mall.
6) They’re so changeable. I wish they’d make up their minds and then keep them made up.
7) Maybe they think we can read minds, but we can’t. I don’t think they can either.
8) What’s wrong with the sex drive? Sex is great, only they don’t have that much interest. It takes forever to get them interested.
9) Women are moody and negative. You can’t satisfy them.
10) I understand her need to talk about us and our relationship. I happen to think that there is a right and a wrong way to talk about those things. If you’re not careful, the whole thing can get out of hand. It’s best to be as rational as possible. If you let it get too emotional, you never can make any good decisions, and if it gets too personal, someone could get hurt. A little bit of distance goes a long way, where a lot of these things are concerned.
11) It’s important, first, to set out clearly what the issues are. I don’t think women do this very well. They latch on to the first thing that comes to mind, get totally emotionally involved in it. The next thing you know, you’re arguing about everything under the sun, and no one is happy. I believe in a clear definition of the problem at the outset. If she can tell me exactly what is bothering her, we can deal with it logically. If she can’t do that, then there’s no sense of even talking about it.
The above examples should suffice for some of the activity in A – C as per our diagram below. The goal is to move to phase D. Failure to move to D will result in being stuck in C-conflict stage. We all start out with differences, these differences lead to disagreements which inevitably leads to conflict - but then what?
Failure to move out of C, the conflict phase, leads to the deterioration of the marriage as it bears the weight of constant friction. In the conflict stage, the old sin nature (OSN) dominates the marriage (Js 4:1-3). When the OSN dominates the marriage you have things like anger that become the issue and driving force in the marriage. Instead of moving forward to D-resolution and the enjoyment of mutual love, intimacy, and appreciation of each other, in anger the couple ends up destroying all capacity for the blessings of love, acceptance and marriage. Instead of moving forward to D-resolution, the couple is stuck in conflict as they regularly attack each other rather than support each other. Characteristics of being stuck in the C-conflict phase include: more concerned with how and why the conflict started than moving forward to phase D-resolution and ending the conflict. When a believer DECIDES to stay in the C-conflict stage, he or she decides to live in legalism and under the dominance of the old sin nature, rather than by grace and Bible doctrine. The believer who CHOOSES to stay in C-conflict stage is more interested in staying angry and using his or her tongue to attack, criticize, make snide remarks, blame and otherwise tear down the partner. One of the best indicators of being dominated by the old sin nature is always in the area of sins of the tongue (Js 3:3-10). It should be no surprise that the Bible speaks so much about how we use our words (Prov 12:18; 14:29; 21:23; 29:20).
The wonderful thing about Bible doctrine and the spiritual life is that we have all of the resources of the new life to put away the old man and move forward and REALLY enjoy the intimacy of marriage. Through doctrine we are able to grow spiritually and to enjoy the wonderful blessedness of marriage instead of being dunderheads bent on destroying one of life's most fantastic blessings provided by God Himself.