How to experience REAL resolution

All couples fight. Healthy couples know how. Part of knowing how to fight right is making sure there is a real resolution to every conflict.

Whenever Star and I had a conflict during the first two years of our relationship, I thought the best way to deal with it was to overlook her “stuff” and move on. I stuffed Star’s “stuff” in a place never to be talked about again and thought God would do his work and make it magically disappear. Boy, was I wrong. Take it from me: stuffing is the last way you want to deal with conflict. You can only stuff for so long before you start to spew.

You can only stuff for so long before all that stuff starts to spew

Every time I stuffed a conflict away (big and small), I placed an imaginary brick between Star and I. After only 2 short years of being married our wall of unresolved conflict was 20 feet high and 50 feet thick. No amount of love could possibly break through.

I hope your wall of unresolved conflict isn’t anywhere close to as big what ours was, but even if it is…there is Hope. God helped us take down the wall brick by brick and he can help you as well.

The only way to keep a “small wall” between you and your spouse is to make sure you experience REAL resolution to your conflicts. Many of the couples we talk with in counseling think their conflicts are resolved, but after digging in we often discover more resolution needs to take place.

How can you tell if your conflicts are really resolved? Here’s a short acrostic using the word REAL that you can use as a checklist to make sure your conflicts are actually being resolved:

R – Receive Your Spouse

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.”

Romans 15:7

The starting point for working towards REAL resolution is to approach each conflict, hurt, or issue with an internal commitment to receiving your spouse throughout the entire process of resolution. Don’t work towards resolution so that you can receive your spouse; instead, receive them to create the best possible environment for resolution. Resolution works best in an environment where we proactively receive each other.

Don’t go into a conversation about an issue with an attitude of, “If he doesn’t say this, admit this, do this, then I’m not going to…”. Rather, have an attitude of, “Regardless of how he responds, what he says, what he does, I’m going to look for ways to continue to pursue resolution and receive him the very best I can.” When two people are committed to receiving each other unconditionally, it paves the way for the most difficult of conflict to be successfully resolved.

Receiving each other is the foundation of REAL resolution.

Receiving each other is the foundation of REAL resolution.

E – Empathize and Express

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:15

Connecting with each other precedes resolving conflict. The combination of receiving each other and connecting with each other is the foundation for accomplishing real resolution.

Connection starts with understanding and empathizing with each other’s perspective. To understand and empathize with your spouse, you must first be genuinely curious about their point of view. Ask them what they want and how they feel about the issue. Even if you disagree with them, express understanding and empathy. This will create a connection that will create the best environment for a resolution.

When your spouse seeks to understand your perspective, speak the truth in love. Don’t minimize or stuff, but be honest about what you want and how you feel in response to the topic. This isn’t a license for you to tell your spouse off, tell them like it is, make threats or demands, etc. It is a chance for you to share the extent of how you feel and what you’re thinking in a way that helps them understand how the issue affected you.

When you and your spouse prioritize connection over conflict resolution, the resolution is much easier to achieve.

A – Admit Your Faults

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

James 5:16

Receiving each other and connecting with each other is the foundation to experiencing real resolution, but without mutual confession, your attempts at conflict resolution will fall short.

Talking through a conflict or issue will typically reveal areas that need to be confessed by the both of you. REAL Resolution isn’t just being willing to confess, but searching for opportunities to confess to each other for how you contributed towards the issue…regardless of who is more at fault.

L – Learn From Yours and Your Spouse’s Mistakes

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”

Psalm 119:67

Conflict is a key ingredient of a healthy marriage because of what it reveals and what it can produce. Conflict reveals our weaknesses and the weaknesses of our spouse. When handled correctly, conflict has the opportunity to produce growth in character. When we experience real resolution, we should walk away knowing ourselves and each other better so we can respond differently to similar situations moving forward.

Real resolution should lead us to know our spouse’s weak spots so that we can be more sensitive to them. REAL resolution should lead us to be aware of our character flaws so we can work on them more intelligently. Real resolution should create a better pattern of resolution for future conflicts, which will lead to our conflicts becoming fewer and far between. REAL resolution should help us to see conflict as an opportunity for growth and intimacy, as opposed to something to be avoided at all costs.

Lastly, experiencing REAL resolution will help you and your spouse keep your “wall” small, thereby removing everything standing in the way of you experiencing deep connection and, consequently, the marriage of your dreams.

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