FamilyLife Today®

Resolving Conflict, Part 1

with Dennis Rainey | July 25, 2011
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When a couple experiences conflict in their marriage, how they resolve that conflict affects more than just the marriage.
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  • When a couple experiences conflict in their marriage, how they resolve that conflict affects more than just the marriage. Dennis Rainey shares how to resolve conflict in a way that honors God and sets an example for your children.

When a couple experiences conflict in their marriage, how they resolve that conflict affects more than just the marriage.

Resolving Conflict, Part 1

With Dennis Rainey
July 25, 2011
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  It was $15, but we got the tape.  It was—

Dennis:  But we had an engineer, too, with that. 

Bob:  We did.  We got the—

Dennis:  I think Keith charges us more than that.  (laughter)

Bob:  Well—

Dennis:  Here’s the thing, Bob.  We called the place “Bethlehem.”  I just have to, for a moment, just give God thanksgiving because from humble circumstances can come great beginnings.  Out of that broadcast, we’ve had the privilege of coming to our listeners, now, for coming up on 19 years. 

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  I mean, getting close to kicking off our 19th year.  It has been a privilege to be able to come into your kitchen, your car, your place of work (wherever you are listening to FamilyLife Today), your iPhone®, or on the computer.  It is our privilege to do that; so, when we share these stories, we’re trying to encourage you on your own journey.

Bob:  Well, I’m going back to the very first program.  You shared about a recent squabble, quibble.  I don’t remember whether it was a squabble or a quibble—

Dennis:  Quarrel.  It was a quarrel. 

Bob:  —that you and Barbara had had.  We got to the end of the program after the taping was all done; and I said, “Do you really want to share with the whole nationwide, listening audience about conflict?”  This was—

Dennis:  This was your experience with Christian radio at that point. 

Bob:  Well, everybody was kind of putting out the high-gloss picture, right?  I thought, “Do you really want to be this honest?”  You said—

Dennis:  I said?

Bob:  You said, “Well, first of all, it really happened.  Secondly, yes.  That’s how people are going to understand that we’re dealing with the same issues everybody else is dealing with.  All we do is know how to apply the biblical principles to try to fix it when it happens.”

Dennis:  I really enjoy meeting listeners who come up and say, “Thank you for the biblical perspective of life, and of marriage and of family, and of mission that you give on FamilyLife Today.”  I also enjoy when people come up and say, “Thanks for being real, both you and Bob, just being honest about life.”  That’s where we all live.  Nobody lives a perfect life.  We do have conflict. 

I want to be appropriately honest here.  I want to protect my wife as much as possible.  I don’t want to get inappropriately honest; but, on the other hand, I want some of life’s greatest lessons that God has taught me to flow over this broadcast into the lives of our listeners and know that they’re normal. 

Bob:   We’re going to hear some of those today because we are going to hear Part One of a message that you shared not long ago at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway where you and I were speaking to a group of couples.  You talked about biblical principles for resolving conflict. 

Let me just say here, at the front end of today’s program, one of the reasons we want you to listen to this message—well, first of all, we think it will help you; but secondly, we want you to hear a little slice of what goes on at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway because we are hoping that you’ll sign up—

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  —and attend one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways when it comes to a city near where you live this fall.

Dennis:  No doubt about it.  In fact, you need to understand, folks, this is a great weekend!  We’ve been working on these conferences now—this is the start of our 36th year of being able to do these Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. 

I just have to tell you, it is a great package deal.  It is the Scriptures taught as clearly as I know how to teach them and as our other speakers who speak at these events can as well—share from authentic lives.  It’s practical.  It’s going to be fun for your marriage.  It will be romantic.  You’re going to leave the conference different people with hope and encouragement, and some vision for the future.

Bob:  We have worked out a special deal for FamilyLife Today listeners. 

If you sign up and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener—you do that by putting my name, putting “BOB”, in the key code box on the online registration form; or you just call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and you mention that you’re a FamilyLife Today listener as you sign up for one of these events.  If you do that, if we know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener, you will save at least $100 per couple of the regular registration fee, just by letting us know you listen to FamilyLife Today.

If you sign up this week, before the end of the month, we will send to you, as well, a game that we’ve put together for couples called Spouse-ology®.  It is a fun, interactive game that couples can play together and learn more about one another. 

So, all of this is designed to get you to go to the website,  Get more information about when a Weekend to Remember is going to happen in a city near where you live; and then, register online at  Again, put my name, “BOB”, in the online key code box or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and register. 

As long as we know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener, you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee.  We hope that’s enough incentive to get you motivated to come on out and join us at one of these Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this fall.

Dennis:  If it’s not, call us and tell us what would motivate you because we want you to go experience it.  This is going to be good for you.

Bob:  You’re going to hear Part One today of a message on biblical principles for resolving conflict.  The Bible has a lot to say about how we resolve conflict in relationships.  Dennis has a lot to say about it as well.  Here is Part One of that message from a recent Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. 

Dennis:  (recorded message)  The most famous sermon ever given—Jesus summarized it by giving home-building tips.  “Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. 

“Everyone, who hears these words of mine and does not do them, may be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  What happens when water hits sand?  It moves around.  “The rains fell, the floods came, the winds blew and beat against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

Everybody needs a blueprint to know how to handle conflict in marriage.  It isn’t a matter of, “If we will have conflict”; it is a matter of, “What we will argue about.”  In fact, a recent survey that just came out in the past ten days called “The Truth about American Marriage” points out a number of things about what’s happening in marriages today.  I thought I’d share it with you to show you what we argue about.

It asked the question, “What do you and your spouse disagree about?”  Number One: Finances, 43 percent.  You could select multiple choices here.  Number Two: Household chores, like dishes.  Isn’t that interesting?  Sex, emotional connection, our social life, raising the children, balancing work and family, smoking, drinking, gambling.  There is a principle:  Conflict is common to all marriages. 

Barbara and I had six children.  I shared about our family having a number of conflicts, and it just so happened in the audience when I spoke that there was a statistician.  I told him—I said, “I don’t know how many relationships we have in our family, but I can promise you, we go to bed really exhausted.”  So, this guy (I don’t remember when this was), he gave me this sheet of paper in handwriting to explain the number of relationships we have in our family. 

He said, “If each relationship has a 50-percent chance of being good at any one time, the chance of all 28 relationships—”  Eight people (and he’s got a grid here to show you how you have 28 relationships).  Eight people form 28 relationships.  So, the chance of all of them being good on the same day is about one in 268,435,456 years.  No wonder raising a family is so difficult!  You’ve got all this inner play. 

So, you have to ask yourself the question, “Why in the world does God allow us to experience conflict?”  I want you to get this on the front end.  If it is true that conflict is common to all marriages and families, then, you have to come down to, really, what the Bible, I think, teaches us because a lot of the New Testament is about how to handle conflict.  It is—the family is God’s proving-ground for training the next generation to know how to handle conflict.

If you are weary of conflict in your marriage and your family, this message is going to have five essentials that we’re going to give you just to kind of share how you can begin to equip your children, as well as you as a couple, in resolving conflict.  That takes me to the first one.  The first one contains the very best marriage advice I’ve ever received from any person on the planet.  “Pray together with your spouse every day.”  Pray together with your spouse every day.


Marriage is a spiritual institution.  It was designed by a spiritual person, God.  So, it comes to a very simple conclusion that, “Wouldn’t it work best if God were invited into the marriage on a daily basis, moment by moment?” 

Barbara and I had been married about four months, and I went up to a friend whose name was Carl.  Carl had five children.  He’d been married 25 years.  I said, “Carl, what is the very best piece of advice you can give me as a young man starting out my marriage.”  He said, “Oh, that’s easy, Denny.”  He said, “Pray together every day with Barbara.”  I said, “Really?”  He said, “Yes.  Pray together every day.” 

He said, “My wife Sarah Jill and I have either started each day or ended each day, or sometime during the day, we’ve prayed together as a couple about the burdens of our hearts and just what’s going on in our lives.  We’ve just built that spiritual discipline into our lives.”  He said, “I know of no better piece of advice I could give you than to apply that in your marriage.” 

So, I was a young man, been married four months, kind of had stars in my eyes.  I went home, and I don’t recall if I had told Barbara that we were going to do it; but I just began practicing the spiritual discipline of saying, “Let’s pray.”  So, we began to do it at the end of the day as we were in bed.  That would be the time that we’d pray. 

It started out fine.  We’d pray together.  We’d pray about our day.  We’d pray about something coming up; something troubling us; a burden; sitter didn’t last a long time.  Sometimes, we’d both pray.  Sometimes, I’d just pray.  Sometimes, she’d just pray.  It was a shared deal until somewhere a few more months into the marriage. 

One night I went to bed.  Barbara was facing that wall; and I was facing that wall.  It wasn’t what was most comfortable physically; it was symbolical of something that was taking place emotionally and spiritually.  Something had come between us.  So, across the back of my mind flashed, “Pray with your wife.  You promised me you’d pray with her.”  There was a tap on the shoulder, and it wasn’t Barbara. 

It was God speaking to my conscience saying, “Are you going to pray with her tonight, Rainey?”  I go, “Uh-uh.  I don’t like her tonight.”  He goes, “I know you don’t like her tonight, but you need to pray with her.”  I’d begin to argue with God, kind of like wrestling with an angel, and say, “God, you know, in this situation, she is 90percent wrong.”  God said, “Yes, but it was your 10 percent that caused her 90 percent wrong.”  I’d say to God, “Don’t bore me with the facts, God.  You know I’m right in this situation.” 

I’d wrestle with God and, finally, roll over and tap Barbara on the shoulder.  I’d say to her, “Sweetheart, we need to pray together; but before we pray, I need to ask your forgiveness for being only 10 percent wrong.”  No! Do not do that, guys!  (laughter)

I did that one night and that night lasted for two days.  Don’t, don’t do that.  That’s not a good move.  You’ll not get one point for that. 

No, I roll over.  I say, “Sweetheart—” Sometimes, those words get caught just south of the Adam’s apple.  “Sweetheart, will you forgive me for…?”  I’d spell it out.  Sometimes, Barbara would say, “Uh-uh.  I don’t want to forgive you.”  It was little bit like, “Bring forth the fruits of repentance, Big Boy.  Do you really mean it?  This is an area where you’ve disappointed me or hurt me repeatedly.  We can’t just keep doing this.”  So, it demanded some conversation. 

I would have to say to you, “The spiritual discipline of praying together in our marriage may be the only reason why I could be standing up here speaking to you today.”  Why?  When two stubborn individuals bow their wills before God and acknowledge Him as Creator, Lord, Master, Redeemer, that He has a plan, He has a purpose; we yield to that afresh.  When two people do that every day for 36 years, God shows up. 

He doesn’t show up in the miraculous, in the spectacular, in the warm fuzzies, and the great feelings always.  It is just everyday life, one foot in front of the other, with God showing up between two imperfect people. 

It took me years of doing this to realize, “That’s a powerful thought that God could show up in your marriage every day in your relationship and help you as a couple when you go through the valley, when you are building in the midst of the rain, the winds, the floods, and the storms.  He helps you build your house on the rock.”

So, here’s my challenge to every man in this room: If you’re willing to make this day the first day of the rest of your life of praying together with your spouse, sometime before the weekend is over, come up and shake my hand and say, “I’m going to pray with my wife.”  I can promise you the most powerful principle of resolving conflict will be first of all the spiritual discipline of bowing your wills before Almighty God because the storms will come.

Second principle is:  “Understanding the anatomy of anger,” the anatomy of anger.  There’s a country song by Terri Clark that is entitled I Just Want to be Mad

(music begins playing)

It points out the differences of how men and women handle anger. 

“Last night we went to bed not talking because we’d already said too much.  I faced the wall; you faced the window, bound and determined not to touch.”

Terri: (recorded music)

 Last night we went to bed not talking

 Cause we already said too much. 

 I faced the wall; you faced the window, 

 Bound and determined not to touch. 

I’ve been up since five,

 Thinking about me and you.

 And I’ve got to tell you

           The conclusion I’ve come to,


I’ll never leave; I’ll never stray.

 My love for you will never change,

 But I aint ready to make up

 Or get around to that.

 I think I’m right; I think you’re wrong.

 I’ll probably give in before long.

 Please don’t make me smile.

 I just wanna be mad for awhile. 


Dennis:  (recorded message)  Don’t you love Country—Country music?  “Well, you might as well forget it.  Don’t run your fingers through my hair…”

Terri: (recorded music) 

     Well, you might as well forget it. 

 Don’t run your fingers through my hair…

Dennis:  (recorded message)  “Yeah, that’s right, I’m being stubborn…”


Terri:  (recorded music)  Yeah, that’s right I’m being stubborn… 

Dennis:  (recorded message)  “No, I don’t want-a go upstairs…”

Terri:  (recorded music)  No, I don’t want-a go back upstairs…

Dennis:  (recorded message)  “I’m going to leave for work without a goodbye kiss…” 

Terri:  (recorded music)  I’m going to leave for work without a goodbye kiss…” 

Dennis:  (recorded message)  “But as I’m driving off, just remember this…”

Terri:  (recorded music) 

But as I’m driving off,

Just remember this,


I’ll never leave; I’ll never stray.

 My love for you will never change.

 But I aint ready to make up

 Or get around to that.

 I think I’m right; I think you’re wrong.

 I’ll probably give in before long.

 Please, don’t make me smile.

 I just wanna be mad for awhile.

Dennis:  (recorded message)   Could I see the hands of all those ladies in here who would confess to having felt this way at some time in your marriage?

Terri: (recorded music)  I just want-a be mad for awhile….

Dennis:  (recorded message)  We get angry.  The problem is:  We don’t understand the anatomy of anger. 

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to Part One of a message from Dennis Rainey on resolving conflict in marriage.  Why the women?  You’ve felt that way before, right? 

Dennis:  Oh, sure. 

Bob:  You just want to be mad for awhile. 

Dennis:  Sure, sure.  In fact, I was just thinking there’d be some new technology that we could have where when couples raise their voices at each other, it would activate that song in houses.  (laughter)

Bob:  Just happen.

Dennis:  Yes.  You know what?  “No, I don’t want to go upstairs.” 

Bob:  The point that you are making about conflict—the fact that it is common to all marriages and the fact that if you are experiencing conflict, that doesn’t mean you got the wrong person.  It just means you’ve got to learn how to, in the power of the Holy Spirit, get it fixed.

Dennis:  You just need to look at the New Testament.  Just take a look at all the teachings of Christ, all the epistles, and all that’s taught about how to resolve conflict between human beings.  I mean, “People, we make mistakes.”  We say too much, or we don’t say enough.  That was true the other night with Barbara and me.  I thought, “I’m going to play it safe”—

Bob:  Here we go again. 

Dennis:  —you know?  “I’m going to play it safe.  I’m not going to say a whole lot.”  It got me in trouble.

Bob:  That didn’t work, either.

Dennis:  It didn’t work, either.  (laughter)  Here’s the thing:  It’s not a science.  You’re not going to reduce your spouse to an equation.  You just have to learn to walk with God and be teachable, and don’t ever lose the ability to ask for forgiveness or grant forgiveness with your spouse.  We’re going to talk more about that this week.

Bob:  Well, again, we’re hoping that listeners will take advantage of this opportunity to sign up for one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that we’re going to be hosting this fall.  We’ve got three or four dozen events happening in cities all across the country.  We’re giving FamilyLife Today listeners to sign up and get the group rate because, face it, you are a group.  You listen to FamilyLife Today; you’re a part of the group. 

All you have to do is go online at, find out when a conference is going to be in a city near where you live, or a weekend that works for you and you can travel to that particular city.  Once you know which conference you want to attend, you fill out the registration form online and you put my name, “BOB”, in the key code box on the online registration form.

Or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY; and you say, “I listen to FamilyLife Today.  We want to go to this particular weekend getaway.”  When you do that, when you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today ® listener, you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee.  That’s the lowest rate we make available any time for the conference, but you have to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener.

Again, go to, fill out the online registration form, and type my name, type “BOB”, in the online key code box.  Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener.  Then, join us at one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember getaways.

If you sign up before the end of the month, before July is over, we will send you as a thank-you gift for signing up early a copy of the game, Spouse-ology®, that was created for couples to play so you can get to know one another.  It is a fun, interactive game for couples.  That is our gift to you for signing up early.  So, go to and sign up.  Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and get signed up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. 

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear Part Two of Dennis’ message on resolving conflict.  We’re going to take a look at the “Anatomy of Anger.”  We’re going to look at the right way to confront a spouse when he or she has done something wrong.  That comes up tomorrow.  Hope you can be with us 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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

©Song:  I Just Wanna Be Mad

Artist:     Terri Clark

Album:   Paint to Kill, (p) 2003 Mercury Records, a Division of UMG Recording, Inc.

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Copyright © 2011 FamilyLife.  All rights reserved. 


Episodes in this Series

Improving Communication 2
Improving Communication, Part 2
with Bob Lepine July 29, 2011
If you are struggling with communication in your marriage, the solution might be to work on your listening skills.
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Improving Communication 1
Improving Communication, Part 1
with Bob Lepine July 28, 2011
Even if you have a degree in communication, you still may need a remedial course when it comes to communicating with your spouse.
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Resolving Conflict 3
Resolving Conflict, Part 3
with July 27, 2011
When conflict happens, forgiveness is a crucial step toward reconciliation in every marriage relationship.
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