Marital ConflictNovember 18, 2010
Conflict isn’t something to avoid; it is something you resolve using a biblical worldview. Pastors Robert Lewis and Tim Lundy show you how on today's broadcast.
Conflict isn’t something to avoid; it is something you resolve using a biblical worldview. Pastors Robert Lewis and Tim Lundy show you how on today's broadcast.
Bob: The greatest single predictor of long-term marital success and happiness is a couple’s ability to resolve conflict. Here is Pastor Tim Lundy.
Tim: I say the reality of it is: For every couple, conflict will make or break you. Every conflict is either a stairway up where you go to a higher level than you have ever experienced before or it is a doorway out where you say, “You know, we are having too much conflict; and I am going to bail on this.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 18th. The host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. We are going to hear today from Pastor Tim Lundy about how we find the stairway when we are experiencing conflict and not the doorway.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have this picture in my mind. If you went to the folks in your church and said, “We are going to be doing some sessions on marriage. We are going to invite couples to come to the church—eight sessions on marriage to help you strengthen your marriage. This is specifically targeted only for those couples in the church who might ever experience any kind of conflict in their marriage. Only those of you who have any kind of conflict—you are the only ones who need to come to this.”
That would be pretty much about everybody, wouldn’t it?
Dennis: I think it might be pretty much everybody. I think that is what Dr. Robert Lewis had in mind when he helped create this session in a new video resource we created for local churches, called Marriage Oneness. Robert, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Robert: Thank you, Dennis. It is great to be back and talk about this.
Dennis: Robert has been a pastor for more than 30 years. He has been working with FamilyLife the past three and a half years on creating a “tool box” for individuals...
Robert: Yes, a number of video resources.
Dennis: Yes. It puts the tools in the hands of an individual or a couple and let them lead this in the local church.
Bob: Can I just ask a question about that because we have also got with us today Tim Lundy, who is a pastor of a local church, and his wife Lea. You guys, welcome back as well.
Tim & Lea: Thanks, Bob.
Bob: Tim, if somebody comes up to you at your church and says, “I was listening to the radio this week and I heard them talking on FamilyLife Today about this new series. My husband and I would be interested in maybe bringing something like this to our church and doing it here.” As a pastor, would you say, “Go for it,” or would you say, “I need to know a little more about it,”
Dennis: He is in it, Bob. He is going to say, “Yes.”
Bob: I know what he is going to say.
Tim: Yes, I think that is great!
Bob: But let’s say it is somebody else’s series.
Tim: Yes, I would want to see it as a pastor; and I would ask myself, “Does this compliment what we are trying to do as a church?” We designed this series with pastors in mind so that churches could use it as a tool instead of it being a competing resource for them.
Bob: Robert, you spent how many years as a pastor of a local church?
Robert: This is 40 years for me.
Bob: Forty years pastoring a local church. If somebody comes up to you and says, “We’d like to do this at the church,” is your first impulse...
Robert: Is to say, “No.”
Robert: Because I don’t know how it is going to engage the rest of the programming of the church and how the material is going to come across, whether it is going to be good or bad, how it gets implemented. I want to know something more about it. I want to feel a certain confidence in it and know that it would be an asset to what we are doing rather than something that would be disruptive to what we are doing.
Dennis: You really designed this so that pastors could commission a couple or maybe a handful of couples to bring this into the church and host this and provide the training for all the couples in the church, right?
Robert: That is exactly right. To help pastors feel more comfortable, we created a website, LifeReady.com, that pastors can go to. They can hear a word from me, and they can sample the resources and get every bit of information they want.
Also, that website links them to all the resource websites where they can actually go and see a little portion of Marriage Oneness and hear more about it and how it gets implemented in the church to help them feel more comfortable with what the material is all about and how it is to be used through lay people, not just dump more responsibility on a pastor and his staff. That is the exact opposite of what all this is about—to unburden pastors while unleashing their people to do marriage and family ministry.
Bob: Most of the folks listening to FamilyLife Today are not pastors; but they hear this and they hear some of these segments and go, “This sounds really good. We’d love to do this in our church. I am going to talk to the pastor about it.” Coach them on the conversation they ought to have with the pastor to get him to say, “Yes, let’s do it.”
Tim: I would first go with humility and say, “This material is impacting me. I think it would be a great addition to what we are doing at the church. I’d love to be the champion; I’d love to do the work. Would you investigate it with me? Let’s go online together, and I want you to investigate every part of it and feel like it is great material—that you are excited about it. I’ll be the one who launches it and does the work.”
Robert: One of the great things about the resource is: When you go in humility and invite the pastor to go look at the resource, one of the first things he is going to see when he goes to LifeReady.com is, he is going to see a header that says, “A word to pastors,” where I, as a pastor, speak personally to pastors about how this will help them—actually encourage them—because it takes more responsibility off of them and offers it to lay people to do in a way that would be effective in the local church. They get to see that, experience that, and taste that little bit before they dive in.
The whole thing is to give them enough information that they would feel comfortable about entrusting this lay couple with a resource that they then can—not the pastor—use—he doesn’t have to do anything—it is business as usual—but that they can go use to better strengthen the marriages and families in their church, which is the social foundation of everything a church does. The stronger marriages and families are, the stronger churches will automatically be. That is why it is so important to build healthy marriages and families.
Dennis: Tim, the average layman, I think, looks at a pastor like you, even though you are a pastor of 7,000 people, and they don’t appreciate the year-round planning from a strategy standpoint. When you insert something like this into a pastor’s year-long schedule, it is not quite as easy as those of us who attend the church might think it would be.
Tim: Yes. It is difficult to do church well—to be about the mission we are called to. One of the things we are always trying to do is make sure we stay on mission. Every ministry can start competing with that if you have to do it yourself. If lay people do it—and this is a vision we want pastors to capture—if you will equip lay people, they can do far greater ministry. This tool allows you to do that.
Robert: I would also add, for our listeners, all the resources we have developed at LifeReady, including Marriage Oneness, are resources that can be used, not only to strengthen marriages and families in your church, but can also be used as an outreach out in the community to draw people to your church. Why do so many people come to a church and bring their kids to a church? It is because of their families and their marriages.
You can even accentuate that by having your people in a neighborhood host a Marriage Oneness training event to draw people to say, “We have something relevant for you that will build into you—that will help you have a happier marriage, a better family, a stronger family unit.” You can give no greater gift to the people of your community than to build their marriages and families.
Bob: The Marriage Oneness material covers things like communication, finances, sexual intimacy, and the spiritual dimension of marriage. One of the subjects you get into is the subject of conflict—resolving conflict. As we said, that is something that is common to every marriage.
In fact, Tim, as you teach on this subject, that is really where you begin in your teaching. I would like our listeners—this is Session 3 from Marriage Oneness—just to hear a little bit of how you unpack the subject of conflict, how it is common to marriage, and what we do with conflict when it occurs in our marriage. Here is Tim Lundy from Marriage Oneness.
Tim: [Recorded message] Let’s go ahead and admit it. Every couple has conflict. Sometimes when I am doing marriage counseling, I’ll get a couple—especially a young couple—and they are so in love. I start counseling them. I say to them, “You are going to have some conflict.”
They get this look in their eye and they smile at me and shake their head, but you can read it all over their faces. They have this thought, “Well, maybe other couples have conflict, maybe mere mortals; but we have a love like no other couple has ever experienced. This conflict of which you speak, we will never experience that.”
As soon as I see it, I’ll say to them, “Hey, why don’t you call me in a couple of months. Just keep my card; give me a call,” because it is true—I don’t care what you call it—you may call it conflict; you may call it fighting; you may call it a family discussion—we use that euphemism around our house sometimes until the kids stop us and go, “Are you having one of those family discussions?”
It is a truth; we all have conflict. Conflict is not a sign of a bad marriage. In fact, some of you who are here, maybe you are watching this—you have a lot of conflict. It is not the sign of a bad marriage. In fact, conflict is the sign of an alive marriage. It means your marriage is alive.
For our series, you see it there, every conflict in marriage offers a new oneness opportunity. Conflict is the fire which forges two “me’s” into a “we.” We are talking about marriage oneness—to have soul-level harmony of mind, heart, and will. To have soul-level harmony, to come together like that, you are going to have to forge two people, two “me’s” into one “we.”
If you know anything about the forging process—in fact, there is a term they use when you take steel—you take raw steel—and you want to turn it into something useful. It is a term called extrusion. In the extrusion process, they take this steel and they put it right in the middle of the fire. They get it as hot as can be and then the two pieces can come together. When the two pieces come together, they reform it to make something useful. I want you to know that marriage is one big extrusion process.
Secondly, through conflict, you have a stronger emotional connection—stronger emotional connection. How often is it true? When you have resolved conflict, do you find yourself, when you make up, what does it lead to? Making up leads to “making out” often. It is true. In fact, some people like to fight just so they can make up later. (laughter) Why does making up lead to “making out”? Because resolved conflict led to a stronger emotional connection. In that stronger emotional connection, you have created the fuel of physical desire.
The third thing that conflict leads to—it leads to deeper commitment. It leads to deeper commitment because the reality is: In any conflict, we have seen something in the other person we didn’t like; we have seen something we didn’t agree with. When you move to resolution, instead of pulling back from them, you have moved forward—even in those hard places. You said to them in that resolution, “I am committed to you.”
See, every conflict is either a stairway up where you go to a higher level than you have ever experienced before or it is a doorway out where you say, “You know, we are having too much conflict; and I am going to bail on this.” I just tell you, the reality of it is: For every couple, conflict will make or break you. Conflict will make or break you. That is why one in five marriages does not make it past the first five years. The term that is most used in it is: Irreconcilable differences.
For Lea and me, the first few years of marriage, we fought—but we didn’t really fight/fight. We were pretty compatible people. I’ll never forget—we moved overseas to Bangkok, Thailand. When we moved to Bangkok, suddenly we found ourselves in a different culture, we lived in a smaller area, we were working in the same school together, we were living and working with our coworkers all the time—we didn’t have as much personal space any more. In the pressure of all that, we started disagreeing more and those disagreements led to more fights.
I’ll never forget looking at her. In fact, one day she was disagreeing with me. I thought, “What happened to that sweet agreeable woman that I used to live with in America?” I said to her, “Who are you?” She looked at me and she said, “Who are you?!” I didn’t know who this person was. This didn’t seem like it was the person that I married.
When you get in those deep areas of conflict, it is a place where you go, “Who is this person?” And they are looking at you and they go, “Who are you?” Why don’t we agree more in it? In fact, you might be asking yourself, “Why is marriage conflict so hard to resolve?”
First, we lack basic conflict resolution skills. We just lack basic skills. It is like the woman who said, “My husband bought me a mood ring. When I am in a good mood, it turns green. When I am in a bad mood, it leaves a red mark on his head.” (laughter) That is a lack of basic conflict resolution skills. We lack those skills.
A lot of times, no one taught us those skills. Think about it when you were growing up. I grew up with siblings. I even say with my kids—I don’t teach my kids to resolve the conflict. I tell them, “Don’t have it. Stop fighting.” That is the goal of the house. A lot of times we were never taught just basic conflict resolution skills. What does that lead to?
No. 1—it leads to wrong timing. We choose wrong timing. When is the absolute worst time to talk about the family budget? When is the worst time? Right after you paid the bills. What happens right after you have paid the bills? You are upset about the budget and whoever usually pays the bills, in our case it is me. I can’t tell you how many times we played that scene out where I have paid the bills and I get up and say, “We are talking about the budget right now! Right now! It is urgent, Missy! I mean, this spending spree is ending right here, now. We are going to talk about it right now.” It is the absolute worst time to talk about it. It is the worst time because I am upset about the budget.
When is the worst time to talk about house work? When you have been walking around the house all day, picking up things, thinking, “Nobody else helps around this house. Nobody contributes.” As soon as they walk through the door, “Come here, Mister! We are going to talk about this house and who does what around here.” It is the worst time to do it—when you are upset about it—when you are right in the middle of it. It is the wrong timing. It is the wrong timing.
It is far better—whether it is when you are on a date communicating—whether it is a time when you just sit down and go, “We need to talk about some issues.” Choose the right timing.
What is the other thing? Wrong emotion—wrong emotion. This is anger. It is anger. It is always the wrong emotion. I have seen more damage—in relationships where the couple loved each other—because of anger, I think, than any other thing.
Third thing is the wrong methods. The wrong methods. These are the “Three Stooges” of reconciliation: blame, shame, and defensiveness—these three. They never belong.
Blame: What are we talking about with blame? Blame is where, “I just want to point the finger at you.” I remember one time I had a couple come into my office. We sat down together. They came for counseling; they were dealing with some issues. As soon as we sat down, I said, “What seems to be the problem?”
I looked over at him; and when I asked the question, I thought they were going to tell me about the issue. But he sat there quietly. When I said, “What seems to be the problem?” he started going (possible motion with his head toward his wife--laughter). I realized the answer to the question, “What seems to be the problem?”: “Well, she seems to be the problem,” that is what he was telling me.
Let me tell you; he is not alone. He was a little more overt; but most couples who come in—I can’t tell you how many times when you start digging in, “What seems to be the problem?” They go, “Well, the problem is him. If he would just stop....” “If she would just start....” “If he would ....” “If she would....” It is so easy to start blaming each other. It never brings reconciliation. It never brings resolution. Blame never will. Then if you blame enough, the second Stooge that jumps in is shame.
This is where you move off of the problem—what they have done—to the person—where one of you takes the moral high-ground. You are not attacking the issue anymore. You are attacking them.
The last one is defensiveness. Defensiveness: Where, “I am going to be right. I always have an answer. I always know what to say.” Like the woman who said, “I married ‘Mr. Right.’ I just didn’t know his first name was ‘Always.’” (laughter) There are a lot of women who can say that. Where it is, “No matter what I say, he has always got an answer.” “No matter what I do, she always says something.” You get caught in that cycle of blame, shame, and defensiveness.
The second thing we lack. This is a critical one. We lack personal objectivity. We lack personal objectivity. How is it that two teams can see the same play on the field and when the ref makes the call, half of the stadium is elated. It was exactly the right call. The other half of the stadium says, “The ref is blind.” Why? They don’t have personal objectivity. We are cheering for our team.
Same thing happens in marriage. Same thing happens in life. Notice how Jeremiah says it, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” We all have a way of deceiving ourselves. We need to realize that when we come into conflict with each other: What seems so crystal clear—I have glasses on that are biased for me. She has glasses that are biased for her.
That is why Jesus’ words are so great when He says, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye? Do you not notice that log in your own eye?” He says, “Before you go and try to take out the speck out of her—Before you are pointing out the speck in his eye, you might want to look in the mirror at the log in your own eye.”
Bob: We are stopping it there? I hate to do it because we are running out of time, but we are right in the middle. I am taking notes here.
Dennis: Well, if you want to get it all, then you need to order the entire video series and do more than play it. This is something that you are going to want to take notes around, and interact with, and do the projects that come with LifeReady Marriage Oneness and dealing with conflict.
Bob: Again, this is a video series that is designed for you and your spouse to go to the pastor and to say, “We would like to connect with other couples in the church and take them through this material,” so that it is kind of a turn-key deal. The pastor doesn’t have to worry about it; but all of a sudden, you can have a pro-active marriage ministry in your church and can be pouring a positive foundation into the lives of a lot of couples and make a difference in their marriages.
Dennis: The way we designed this is so the pastor does not have to do it. We have put this in the hands of an individual, a couple, who are committed to marriages in their church.
Bob: That is you—listening right now.
Dennis: That is right.
Bob: We are talking about you.
Dennis: You can bring this to your church. It does not create more work for the pastor. It would help if he would announce it on Sunday morning.
Bob: Put it in the bulletin. That would be good.
Dennis: Truthfully, you roll up your sleeves and with this tool—it is so well done—such a turn-key deal: It provides eight messages on video; it provides a workbook for each person; and it is practical. It is highly effective, and it is life-transformational. If there has ever been a time in our churches and in our communities when there needs to be training and equipping around conflict resolution in marriage, it is today. If there is an institution that needs to be doing it, it is the church.
Bob: What we have tried to do is make it as easy as possible for churches to do it by engaging lay men and women to be the facilitators for it—giving them tools that will work.
You can find out more about how easy the LifeReady strategy is, not just for marriage, but the other resources that the LifeReady team has been creating. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and find the link to LifeReady. You will find out more about Marriage Oneness, about College Ready, about the upcoming LifeReady Woman series that is being created, even now.
Again, find out more about LifeReady and about Marriage Oneness when you go to FamiyLifeToday.com’ or call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have questions. FamilyLifeToday.com is the website. 1-800- F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY” is our phone number.
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Now tomorrow we are going to hear from Tim Lundy about one of the issues that trips up a lot of couples: money and marriage; finances and our relationship with one another. That is coming up tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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