Rules for Couples' Conflicts


Here are some biblically-based rules for handling marital tension.

1. Clearly define the problem. Clarify what the actual conflict is first. Then, see if there is any other reason this conflict is here. (Prov. 13:10; 18:13; 22:3)

2. Quickly acknowledged the problem soon after the mistake and try to resolve it. Don’t hope the problem will just go away. (Prov. 27:23)

3. Encourage your mate to explain and respond. Use active listening. Repeat to the other person what you heard them say. Get their agreement about what you heard them say before responding (vice-versa). Learn to listen! (Prov. 14:33; 24:3-4)

4. Discuss only one thing at a time, and stay in the present. Don’t dredge up past hurts or problems, whether real or perceived. Avoiding score keeping. “You are late for dinner. I feel angry. I wanted everything to be warm and tasty.” Rather than “You are late for dinner as usual. I remember when" etc. (Prov. 19:10; 103:12)

5. Don’t argue about details, e.g. “You were 20 min. late,” “No, I was only 13 min. late.”

6. Avoid power statements and actions. For example: “I quit!” “You’re killing me.”, etc. (Prov. 17:27; 26:21; 28:16,25; II Tim. 2:7)

7. Avoid judgment words like “you statements.” Stay with self-responsible “I” messages. (Matt. 7:1)

8. Be honest in your statements and questions. Honesty needs to be accurate, rather than agreement or perfection. (Eph. 4:15; Prov. 12:19)

9. Don’t confront when you’re angry or stressed out (cool your jets). Learn to identify your body’s own natural signs when you’re getting angry, stressed out, overloaded, or about to shut down.

10. Never walk out without agreeing to take a break. It is okay to temporally stop when a solution is unclear. However, agree to resume the discussion when your emotions have cooled off. (Eph. 4:26; Prov. 11:14)

11. Don’t use the silent treatment. Nothing gets solved this way. (Prov. 3:27; 16:13,21,24)

12. Never threaten to withdraw love. (Prov. 28:25; 29:23)

13. Control your hands and tongue. Never use sarcasm or physical violence. (Prov. 15:4; 12:18; 29:2-3; 16:13)

14. Don’t use “hysterical” statements or exaggerations at the time of conflict. (Prov. 29:11; 16:21,24)

15. Select an appropriate time and place. Don’t make a scene. Never deliberately embarrass each other or others by arguing in public. Keep your arguments in private. Perhaps even away from siblings if necessary. (Prov. 15:23; Prov. 25:11)

16. Don’t drag in outsiders unless each member agrees that this person can help find a solution or help referee. The person needs to be someone who can maintain unbiased opinion and someone who everyone respects and feels safe with. (Prov. 1:5; 12:15; 19:20; 20:18; 27:9)

17. Surround criticism with encouragement (praise bombardment). Focus on your desired expectations or positive changes rather than on faults. (Prov. 15:1; Prov. 15:13)

18. Speak directly and personally to your mate. Avoid lecturing and stay with concrete specific behavioral detail(s). (Prov. 18:23)

19. Put yourself in your mate’s shoes.

20. Don’t compare your mate to others. Be aware of each others differences and accept them. (Prov. 22:6)

21. Give value and consideration to the interests, goals, and desires of each person. (Prov. 29:7)

22. When you’re wrong, admit it. Accept any blame for the past (Was the rule clearly defined? Was it written down? Was there miscommunication?). Identify your own contribution to the problem. (Prov. 28:13; 29:23)

23. Resolve your conflicts with “Win-Win” solutions. Both agree with the solution or outcome of the argument.

24. Forgive your mate, and do not hold resentment. End a fight with an act of love. (Col. 3:12-13; I Peter 3:8-9)

25. Above all, strive to reflect HONOR in all of your words or actions during a conflict. (Romans 12:10; 2:3)

26. Make conflict resolution a regular habit. (Prov. 13:24)

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