Marriage is under pressure like never before in our culture. There are enough external pressures against this lifelong, exclusive commitment between a man and women. However, I have yet to hear of political or religious conflict breaking up a marriage. Mostly the sad stories of self destruction that we hear are rooted much closer to home - basic problems of self centredness, inability to communicate, or the struggle to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when two independent people come together and try to do life together!
In preparing for the second session of our 'Marriage Central' series which Caz and I are teaching through at home base, I found this excellent paragraph on handling conflict. Taken from Neil Anderson's 'Experiencing Christ Together', the contrasts between destructive and constructive conflict will be helpful for all of us to embrace, whether in marriage, friendship or the work place. Remember, conflict is inevitable, conflict is not the problem or a even a sign that things have gone wrong - it's simply what you do with conflict when it happens that is the most important thing!
Destructive when : Spouses don’t understand the value of conflict that naturally comes when other opinions and perspectives are shared.
Constructive when: Spouses understand the need to hear the other side so that responsible decisions can be made.
Destructive when: There is a competitive climate which implies a ‘win-lose’ situation.
Constructive when: There is a co-operative spirit & commitment to the marriage that searches for a ‘win – win’ situation.
Destructive when: ‘Getting my own way’ is all important.
Constructive when: 'Doing it God’s way' is all important.
Destructive when: Spouses employ defence mechanisms, including projection, blame, suppression, withdrawal, aggression.
Constructive when: Spouses aren’t defensive and assume that disagreements evolve from the other person’s sincere concern for the marriage.
Destructive when: Spouses are locked into their viewpoint, unwilling to consider the perspective and ideas of their partners.
Constructive when: Spouses believe they will eventually come to an agreement that is better than any one individuals suggestion.
Destructive when: Spouses resort to personal attacks instead of focussing on the issues.
Constructive when: Disagreements are confined to issues rather than personalities.
Destructive when: Personal ideas and opinions are valued over the marriage.
Constructive when: The marriage relationship is more important than the need to win or to be right.