FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The ART of Conflict, Part 2

with Tom Nelson | February 7, 2007
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Can conflicts in your relationship really be healthy? On today's broadcast, Song of Solomon expert, pastor Tommy Nelson, tells you how to handle conflict without sinning in the process.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Can conflicts in your relationship really be healthy? On today's broadcast, Song of Solomon expert, pastor Tommy Nelson, tells you how to handle conflict without sinning in the process.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Can conflicts in your relationship really be healthy?

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The ART of Conflict, Part 2

With Tom Nelson
February 07, 2007
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Tommy: Fellows, do not reason with your wife.  She knows the answer; she knows what she feels.  This drives women mad – "Okay, you're mad.  You're mad because of this, that assumes this, that concludes with that, that obviously is not true."


Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 7th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you've ever made a blunder like that and, who among us hasn’t, stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  I'll tell you what, it's been a treat – last week and again this week – to be able to listen to portions of messages from Pastor Tommy Nelson as he teaches on the Song of Solomon.  And already this week he has talked about how conflict can interrupt romance and intimacy in a marriage relationship, and in part 2 of the message that we've heard already this week, he's going to talk to us about what we can do to help cure that interruption, and that is to develop some healthy patterns of communication.

Dennis: And we're going to try what may be humanly impossible, because Tommy Nelson breaks every communication law known to man in speaking about communication.

Bob: Yes?

Dennis: He makes 12 points, that's 12, one two, 12 points about talking and seven points about listening.

Bob: So it's a basic 19-point message.

Dennis: It's a 19-point message, and for those of you who are getting ready to listen to the broadcast, you better listen fast.

Bob: That's right, buckle your seatbelt.

Dennis: This is a great message from the Song of Solomon, and our listeners that have been with us all week know that Tommy Nelson is a pastor, he is a speaker, widely sought after as a relevant Bible teacher.  He's been married to his wife, Theresa, for more than 20 years, two teenage sons, and so he can get these 19 points in, Bob.  Let's go hear Tommy Nelson.

Bob: All right.

Tommy: (From audiotape.)  I'm going to hit you with something really quick, the most important thing I could share with you.  Here is how you talk – number one, never speak rashly.  Weigh your words before you speak.  Step back, let your endocrine system back up – hoo, hah, okay – and then talk, but don't speak rashly.

 Secondly, never confront your mate publicly.  You all ever seen couples do that at restaurants, and you want to go punch some guy out?  Never, ever confront your mate publicly.

 Thirdly, never confront them before kids.  You never, ever carry on a conflict in front of a kid.  Go into the back room and talk.  Don't make your kids miserable.

 Fourthly, never use the kids.  "Freddie, get over here.  Isn't he like that?  Isn't he like that?"


 How many of you all got pulled between parents?  That's painful.  Never use your kids.

 Fifthly, never say "never" and never say "always."  "You always do that."  "I never recall you ever" – never do that.

 Sixthly, never get historical – you mean hysterical?  Historical.  By that I mean that you go back into things they used to do, and you talk about sins in their past.  "You remember five years ago?  You did it then, you do it now."

 Seventhly, never raise your voice.  You can say just about anything as long as you're sweet.  Proverbs – "Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness."  Sit down, put your hands on your lap and talk sweetly about how you feel. 

 Eighthly, never call names.  I'm amazed at things guys will call their wives.  You get nothing resolved.

 Ninthly, never mention family.  It's still his parents, and it's still her parents.  Don't bring them into it.  It doesn't accomplish anything, it just makes them mad.

 Tenthly, never win, never win.  When you win a conflict, you lose a mate.  Press to resolve, press to resolution not to victory.

 Eleventh, don't condescend.  I was in my study once, and I had this guy, bless his heart, they were having a bad marriage.  She was really a vitriolic kind of a girl.  She was emotional, and he was kind of like this.  And I said to him, "Well, what seems to be the problem?"  He said, "I think we have basically a difference of value."  He said, "I myself lean toward the more spiritual, she happens to be more worldly, and tends to more fleshly things."

 And I turned to her, and I said, "Wait a minute."  I said, "How do you feel right now?"  She said, "Mad."  I said, "How come?"  "He just embarrassed me in front of you."  I said to him, "Do you always do that?"  I said, "Does he always do that?"  He said, "What?"  I said, "Do you always take that little kind of quiet voice and just rip your wife?"  I said, "I'd rather have you like her, throwing daggers than like you sniping out here and condescending on her."  He did it all the time.  You don't condescend on your mate.  You speak horizontal to them.

 Twelfthly, never demean.  I've got a dear buddy.  He said he had a bad habit early in his marriage, and it got broke real quick.  He said his wife would try to share what was hurting her, and he'd do like this "Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh."


 He said, "My 10th-year reunion, one of my buddies was standing there with his wife, and she dropped her glasses, and I'm standing there with about five of my buddies talking to him.  She dropped her glasses again, and do you know what this guy did?  I think he felt he had to be tough in front of his old high school buddies.  He grabs them glasses and said, 'You put them on and keep them on or I'm going to break them.'  And he does that right in front of us.  And I watched this girl die right there.  She wilted, and I'm thinking, 'Man, if you do this all the time, how abusive can you be to a spirit by demeaning her?'"

 Guys, I've seen these guys, and they're looking for something, and his wife is looking around in her purse for something – I've seen them do this – and these guys, I guess they think they're being great husbands.  They go, "Give me that," and they jerk her purse.  That's demeaning.

 Some of you are going to marry wives that are Type Bs.  They'll let you get away with it.  I married a Type A, and she won't.  My wife will go, "Come on."


 Never force a quiet mate to talk.  Some of you, when you get hurt, it's going to be right now.  Whoa, stop, shut down.  But you're going to marry people that you've got to give them a little space.  How many of you think you're going to need just a little time?  I'm like that.  Raise your hand if you think you're going to be like that.  Have we got some Type Bs?  I'm like that – just give me a little time.

 That's how you talk.  How do you listen?  Listen with your face.  Fellows, don't be working the channel changer.


 I told you once my wife grabbed me and said, "Listen with your fists."  Fellows, do not reason with your wife.  She knows the answer; she knows what she feels.  This drives women mad – "Okay, you're mad.  You're mad because of this, that assumes this, that concludes with that, that obviously is not true."


 She wants to shoot you.  Thirdly, do not argue.  People, when your mate gets hurt, you stop the presses.  And, fellows, if you want to alienate your wife so quickly when she's hurt, you start reasoning why she's wrong, as if she's supposed to go, "Oh, okay."


 You spread them, and you go, "Sweetie," and you get your pen out, and you say, "Yes, ma'am, I don't want to hurt you again.  What did I do wrong?"  But don't you argue with your wife.  That's so frightening to a woman to have a guy that is not perfect, but he's not even perfectable.  She can't talk with him.  She's got this monarch.  Let her talk and listen.

 Fourthly, don't interrupt.  Proverbs – "He that giveth an answer before he hears, it is folly and a shame."  Don't interrupt.

 Fifthly, never stomp out the door.  I had a girl call me a few months ago, got in a conflict with a guy in my church, one of the guys in my church, her husband.  She said, "We were talking, he got his feelings hurt and walked out the door."  I got him the next day, I said, "Look at me.  That's not a minor problem.  That's cancer.  Don't you ever do that again.  You stay right there, but you never walk out."

 Sixthly, don't vent your spleen outside.  Don't go to the girls at the bank and talk about your worthless mate.  Don't go to your fellows over at the club and talk about your sorry wife.  You deal with them right there.

 Guys, I want you to know – and ladies – if I ever got word back to me that my wife had said something about me, it would kill me.  I would die right here if she broke our trust.  Never talk about your mate outside.

 Eighthly, no rude body language.  Go ahead, you sit down, and you listen.  And you know what?  Let's watch what happens.  How do you speak?  Verse 4 – "You're as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling; as lovely as Jerusalem, as awesome as an army with banners" – meaning, "I respect you, and you are as lovely as I ever remember.

 Verse 5 – "Turn your eyes away from me, for they have confused me."  That means you're so beautiful I can't even talk to you.  Do you know what he's doing, fellows?  It's called forgiveness, and he is so forgiving that if you look at the rest of the verse, it's in the end of verse 5 and verse 6, verse 7 is the identical language of the honeymoon.  He says, "I love you like I always loved you."

 In verse 8 "There are 60 queens, 80 concubines, maidens without number, my perfect one is unique."  He says you're the only girl in the world for me.  What's the principle here, ladies, guys?  It's called forgiveness.  "I love you, and I can't even remember what you did."  And not only does he forgive, but pick it up in verse 11, and we conclude – "I went down to the orchard of nut trees to see the blossoms of the valley; to see whether the vine had budded or the pomegranates had bloomed, and before I was aware, my soul," meaning Solomon, "set me over the chariots of my noble people."

 When he took this woman and set her in his chariot over the noble people, it was the idea, "I not only forgive you, I can't even remember what you have done."  It's like it never occurred.  Clara Barton, the head of the Red Cross, a noble Christian woman, was asked about somebody that had hurt her.  She said, "I distinctly remember forgetting that."

 Verse 13 – "Come back, come back, O Shulamite."  That is not her name, it's a nickname.  Do you know what that is, girls?  That's the female diminutive term for Solomon – Shulam, Shulamite.  Tom – then you'd call my wife Tomasina.  Mike, Michelin, and it means she belongs to him.  What has conflict and forgiveness done?  It's brought them closer.

 Complete this verse – where sin increased grace abounds.  The way you grow close is by conflict.  Verse 13, how does the text end?  They leave together and the crowd says, "Why should you gaze at the Shulamite as of the dance of two companies?"  It's a party.  One company is Solomon, the other company is the Shulamite, and they're having a party.  Conflict has brought intimacy, and it has brought joy.  "I love my wife so much because she has forgiven me so incredibly."  Where sin increases grace abounds.

 Do you see, from the Bible, how to conflict?  Don't react – respond.  Let God change them.  Talk, forgive, and forget.  You can't do better than this 3,000-year-old document.  And can I conclude with what will help you forgive?  I'll tell you what helps me forgive is the fact of how I have been forgiven.

 I wasn't always somebody that owned a Bible or read it.  I'm 44 years old.  I became a Christian my junior year of college at the age of 21, and I was a wicked individual.  I was sinful, I was lost, I was condemned, I was going to hell, and God didn't have to tell me who He was at all – I was a sinner.  And a fellow came into my room and shared with my roommate, and I listened over his shoulder, and I found out that Jesus Christ died upon a cross at Calvary, and that the perfection that I needed to get to heaven that I had forfeited through my sin, He was the Holy One of God. 

 And the punishment that my sin deserved that I should have done, He died in my place and that God, through faith in His shed blood, could wash me clean of all of my guilt, and I could have security, I could have salvation and forgiveness.  He could take his righteousness and give it to me as a free gift, and there could be no pride in me, there could be nothing but adoration, humiliation and thankfulness for Him.

 And I went to my room shortly after, and I knelt, and I said, "Lord God, I have sinned.  I am empty, and I can't make it.  You come into my life, You forgive me of my sin.  I take you as Savior.  I've quit trying, I'll trust You."  And as the Book of Revelation says, "I stand at the door and knock, and if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I'll come into him."  I heard, I opened, and He did, and He converted me.

 Every man in Christ is a new creation, old things pass away, behold, new things have come – I was made new, and that's the testimony of every single person here that names the name Christian, as they have put their faith.  They have come with empty hands to the cross at Calvary and have been converted, and when you know that you are forgiven, it is quite an easy thing to forgive your mate.

 Are you going to have that receptacle of grace because you have trusted in Jesus Christ?  If you haven't, before you try to get straight with a mate, why don't you get straight with the Maker?

Bob: Well, we've been listening again to Pastor Tommy Nelson, and has he has talked about communication today, he has reminded us here at the end, Dennis, that the foundation for reconciling differences in marriage is reconciliation with Christ.

Dennis: You know, Ruth Graham says a good marriage is the union of two forgivers, and it's two people who have been forgiven.  Ephesians, chapter 4, the last verse in that chapter says, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other" – how?  "Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

 And Tommy has reminded us that the basis of my ability to forgive Barbara is that I've been forgiven, and that presupposes, Bob, that I'm squared away with God; that I'm reconciled to God.  First of all, by virtue of having placed faith in Christ as Lord and Savior and knowing that He has forgiven me but, also, Bob, I think it's experiencing that grace day in and day out where there is nothing between me and God; that I've not allowed anything to creep into my relationship with God so that God has turned his face away from me as David described in Psalm 51.

Bob: You know, I got an e-mail one day from one of our listeners who said, "I like your program.  I listen to it.  I'm not a Christian, and I get kind of turned off when you start preaching every once in a while," but she said, "I like what you have to say about marriage and family." 

 And at the end of the message today, Tommy was preaching a little bit, but I hope she didn't tune out because what we have to say about marriage and family is really secondary to what Tommy was talking about at the end of that message.

Dennis: You know, marriage is a spiritual institution.  Its originator, its creator is Spirit.  God is Spirit and truth, and He created marriage, and it only works best when two people are in right relationship with God.  That means they are in tune with him, walking with him in obedience according to the Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit.  And that's what Christian marriage was to be all about.

 And so I make no apology at points for us here on FamilyLife Today to turn to our audience and plead with them, and even as Paul did.  He beseeched them, you know, "Be reconciled to God."  He pleaded with them to be made right with God and turn from their ways and repent.  I think a large part of our problem today in the Christian community has been that we have allowed sin to enter in, and we haven't dealt with it.  We haven't repented, we aren't reconciled with God, and therefore our human relationships simply don't work.

Bob: And I think there are undoubtedly listeners, either regular listeners to FamilyLife Today or folks who have just tuned into today and heard Tommy's message, who, in the back of their mind, in a corner of their heart, they're feeling a tug.  They know that they need to make some changes spiritually. 

 They know that something needs to be different about their lives, and that's what the message of the Gospel is all about.  It's a message of transformation.  You can't make yourself any better, and some of you know exactly what I'm talking about because you've tried to make yourself better, and it hasn't worked. 

 But you can turn your life over to someone who will renovate it; who will do a transforming work in your life and in your marriage and your family and your relationships.  And that person is Jesus Christ.  And any of our listeners who would say, "I need that.  I need that area of my life to be addressed," we would like to send you a book by our friend, Jim Elliff.  It's a book called "Pursuing God," and it lays out very clearly what it means to have a day in, day out relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

 We'll send this book out to you at no cost with no obligation.  We simply want to get information in your hands that can help you understand how to live in a right relationship with God, and you find that that relationship becomes the center of the wheel, and all the other relationships are like spokes on a wheel that get in alignment when you first have your relationship with God right.

 So if you're interested in the book, "Pursuing God," you can either call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, or go online at, and just say, "I need to make some changes spiritually in my life.  I need to get my relationship with God settled," and we'll be happy to send you a copy of this book at no cost and, again, with no obligation.  You can just request it again when you call 1-800-FLTODAY or when you go online at

 If you go online, click the red heart, or the red button that you see right in the middle of the home page, and that will take you to a page where there is more information about the book, "Pursuing God."  You'll also find information about the six-CD series on the Song of Solomon that features 11 messages from Pastor Tommy Nelson along with a study guide. 

 This is a great series.  It's been a very popular resource for our listeners here at FamilyLife Today, and we want to encourage you to, again, go to our website,, to request this series on CD, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have this CD series sent out to you, or you can order it online, if you'd like.

 Let me mention one additional resource, if I can, and this is a resource that we are sending out this month to anyone who makes a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  It's a CD that features two messages from Pastor C.J. Mahaney and his wife, Carolyn.  We call it "Romance Basics for Men and Women."  It gives simple, clear instruction, man-to-man and woman-to-woman, on how we can do a better job of expressing our love and our care for one another in marriage.

 This CD is our gift to anyone who can help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today during the month of February.  It's our way of saying thanks for partnering with us in making this daily broadcast available on this station and on stations all across the country.  When you make your donation online at, if you'd like to get the CD, all you have to do is write the word "love" in the keycode box as you fill out the donation form.  Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, you can simply ask for the CD on romance featuring the Mahaneys or the "thank you CD."  Our team will know what you're talking about, and they'll be happy to send it along to you, again, as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 Well, tomorrow Tim Gardner is going to join us.  He is the author of a book called "Sacred Sex," and we're going to talk about what God has in mind for the marriage relationship and for intimacy in marriage.  I hope you can be with us as we continue this conversation this week.

 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'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


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