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Having a Fight and Then Blogging About It

 I am an admitted conflict-avoider. I lived with roommates for six years during and after college and never had a single roommate conflict of any magnitude. Not because I didn’t need to, but because I flat refused to. I didn’t see the point of conflict. I had never had a good experience with conflict resolution. I preferred a tense peace to the mess and uncertainty of a fight. 

When I started dating my husband, I had a lot to learn. I knew that conflict was part of a healthy relationship, but when we actually started having fights, I was terrified. Our arguments felt so much more painful than anything the relationship books had prepared me for. 

And now, even though learning to resolve marital conflict biblically has been one of the greatest catalysts for growth in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever written about a conflict my husband and I have had in a way that really describes the anger we felt or the hurtful things we said to each other or the tears and snot that were shed in the process. (See what happens when I attempt an accurate description? It gets gross really fast.) And I have yet to hear a speaker or read an author who did either. To be fair, I’m not sure I want them to. It feels like someone’s sure to be violated that way. 

More Harm Than Good?

Here’s my concern: When we talk about conflict, we tend to share the cleaned-up versions of our fights. Those sterilized, often humorous stories can be helpful for illustrating the principles of conflict resolution, but they don’t do much to prepare us for the pain of conflict itself. I’m becoming convinced that that’s one reason why many young adults don’t resolve conflict, even if they know in theory how to do it. As soon as they run into an actual conflict with all its heightened emotion, they bail. 

This leaves me with an honest and troubling question: How can Christian communities authentically mentor young believers on the emotional aspect of conflict resolution? How can we share what conflict feels like in a way that ALSO respects our spouses? (Yes, there are plenty of believers and non-believers who will air their partners’ dirty laundry, but with no thought for protecting that person’s dignity. I’m pretty sure that’s not the answer, and I’ve seen it cause damage and regret in more than one relationship.) 

I’m going to be honest: I don’t have any neat answers here. But here are a few starting points that I think might help.

1. Share your conflict stories with wise mentors.

It was with great fear and trembling that I vouchsafed to a married mentor that my (then) boyfriend and I were having an extended argument once or twice a month. I was sure she’d tell me that was a red flag, and I needed to end the relationship.

Instead, she laughed at me.

And then she told me I was totally normal. Well, not even quite normal. It seems she and her husband disagreed much more often than that.

You can’t imagine my relief. Just knowing that all the emotion I was feeling was normal because conflict was normal was a huge help to me in moving forward and learning to deal with it.

If you’re navigating the waters of relational conflict for the first time — or if you can see it on the horizon — talking about it with someone whose marriage you admire can help you know whether what you’re experiencing is healthy or not. Most conflict is painful to some degree, but there’s a difference between healthy painful and abusive painful. Tweet This If you can’t tell the difference, talk with someone who can.

2. Call married people out on their cleaned-up stories.

The (literally) funny thing about conflict is that, told in retrospect, most of our fights make for humorous stories. But when every conflict account you’ve ever heard is silly, it can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong when your own conflict feels frightening and way too tender. In those instances, the married, teacher-type people in your life probably aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Likely, they have no idea they’re collectively painting a false view of marital conflict. And I think some insightful questioning might be the solution.

You probably won’t have the chance to do this with a speaker at a national conference, but with a pastor, Bible study leader, mentor or professor, you might. The next time you hear a sterilized, funny fight story, privately ask the person to describe what the conflict felt like at the time. It is possible to effectively communicate that something was very painful without re-injuring the parties originally involved. And a little more of that kind of honesty could be very good for the church and for Christian marriages.

What about you? How have you learned to deal with the emotions of conflict in healthy ways?

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About the Author

Lindy Keffer

Lindy Keffer is very fond of her preschool daughter and toddler son, who are worth every ounce of energy it takes to keep up with them. Her husband makes videos for a living and helps with the dishes, which makes her smile. Her favorite thing about living in Colorado is 300-plus days of sunshine per year.


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