The Argument That Changed the Way I Handle Conflict in My Marriage
Written by Deborah Lee, Singapore
The argument started with a conversation at the dinner table during a casual visit to our aunt’s home. Our aunt had asked how my husband and I were doing as a couple, as it had been a while since we last saw her. We had said that everything was fine.
However, the conversation went downhill shortly after, when she asked about a certain matter at home (I will spare you the details). The conversation devolved to a point that I began raising my voice and pointing fingers at my husband.
What started out as an innocent question ended up setting off explosive words between us, revealing our communication issues as a couple. As my husband started listing all of his complaints about me, I became increasingly frustrated, angry even, at his self-justification. I was so hurt by what he had said that I eventually broke down at the dinner table, and everyone became silent.
As she held up a box of tissues for me, our aunt urged me to focus on God and pray. Even though I recognised the wisdom behind that advice, I could not be appeased at that moment, and so continued to speak angrily at my husband. After a long, awkward pause, dinner ended with our aunt praying for us and for me to rekindle my love for God.
I left her home that night feeling vulnerable and crestfallen, thinking about the state of my marriage and what that said about my faith.
Coming to Terms with My Pride
As the scenes replayed in my mind that night, I saw pride in the way I had responded. I had launched into a lot of “you” statements—“you never ask for my opinion first”, “you never consider my feelings”, “you only think about yourself and what you want”. Even though I had felt that my husband was not speaking the truth about me, I realised my words were also very self-centred. As James 4:1 says, fights and quarrels are a result of conflicting desires within us. I wanted to be a submissive wife who honours God and my husband above all, but I lost my temper when I felt that matters were beyond my control.
A few days before the incident, I had testified to a friend about the love of God and how much I wanted to follow Him. And yet, during the dinner, my response was completely different. I had not demonstrated love and patience as a believer should (Ephesians 4:2). I was also reminded of what Matthew 16:24 said, that those who love God must deny themselves, carry the cross, and follow Him.
I began to reflect on what carrying the cross and following Him meant for me, and how Jesus would have responded if He was at the dinner table. I believed that His response would have been a gentle and loving one. He would have been patient, even if He was wronged. But in my case, I had reacted defensively with harsh words, wanting to inflict hurt because I was hurt.
Despite feeling wrecked, I knew that God was still on the throne, and that He is there in our disagreements and in my most vulnerable moments. Yet He seemed so distant after that incident. I felt I had failed Him terribly, and was not worthy to be called His disciple.
As I quieted my heart, I thought back to the people in the Bible. Even the saints and giants of the faith had moments of failure, too—David (2 Samuel 11-12), Peter (Matthew 26), Paul (Philippians 3), to name a few; yet God forgave and restored them. In Hebrews 12:1, the author speaks about our faith journey as a race to be run with perseverance, and how we should lay aside every weight. This made me realise that my faith journey does not just stop because of the faithless words I had carelessly spoken. As long as I breathe, I can lay aside every wrongdoing that hinders me, repent, and turn my eyes toward Christ.
Making Peace with My Husband
With my thoughts cleared, I sent our aunt a message to thank her for reminding me to look to God. Even though she had encouraged me to turn to Christ and had prayed for me, I realised that I still had to make the personal call to repent in order to experience God’s love and restoration all over again.
The journey of faith, I learned, is about standing up again courageously in Christ after I stumble. My next step was to apologise to my husband for the hurtful words I had spoken, and then to iron out the issue that led to the conflict. To make sure that I would be composed enough to talk about it, I rehearsed the lines that I would speak to my husband the next day.
I’ve heard it being said that whoever apologises first shows a weak character, but I know that the Bible teaches otherwise. As Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.
I decided to text my apology to my husband, since our work hours are slightly different and we usually wake up at different times for work. Before sending the text, I uttered a short prayer to ask God for a gentle spirit (Proverbs 15:1) and a controlled tongue (Proverbs 12:18), to speak only words that would be helpful for the situation, and to remain humble and willing to resolve our differences.
I thank God that He was also working through my husband, as his replies to my texts were gentle and forgiving. We managed to talk about it over dinner and resolved to speak gently to each other as we worked out our issues.
Learning to Deal with My Anger Wisely
This is not the first time I’ve seen how anger often mars my judgement and ability to resolve issues. But through experiencing the consequences of acting out on my anger, I’m seeing the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak, knowing that my unrighteous anger does not produce the righteousness God desires (James 1:19-20) or gives Him the honour He’s due.
Instead, I am learning to rein in my anger by reminding myself that God is with me and will give me the wisdom I need to face the situation. If necessary, I would walk away to avoid escalating the situation and revisit it when I’m able to respond wisely. Though it may be hard to not get angry whenever there’s a conflict, I am reminding myself that God is always at work in us, and His grace is always sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
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