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Christian Counseling - Necessary Conflict

Many couples avoid conflict like the plague. Why? Well, for many the word conflict itself has a negative connotation. Do a little free association yourself. When you think of the word conflict, what comes to mind? Words like yelling, anger, crying probably come to mind.

Yet, in healthy relationships, conflict is absolutely necessary. Conflict actually helps us to grow in relationships, both with God and with one another. Why does it seem so negative, and why do we avoid it so much? Say a couple has a fight (which is one form of conflict). They say horrible things to each other. They may even go days without speaking. They certainly do not resolve the issue that "started" the fight. Each person leaves with the same thought, "Man, that was ugly. I don't ever want to do that again." As a result, they attempt to let the little things go. They become annoyed with each other from time to time but do not discuss the issues. This builds up over time. Then, one day, something happens, and they start fighting. All the feelings that have been bottled up come to the surface. It goes badly. Afterward, they once again say to themselves, "Man, that was ugly. I don't ever want to do that again." They proceed down the same path of attempting to avoid the issues that come up between them until the next blow up.

What has happened is that the couple has made an inappropriate association. The couple is associating conflict with the terrible fighting that they experience. I would argue that it is not the conflict that is at fault. It is the avoidance of conflict that is a major factor in the explosion that occurs in the relationship. If they were able to handle issues as they come up, many couples would be able to resolve issues without resorting to childish name calling, screaming, etc.

The Bible states that we should not let the sun go down on our anger and that we should not keep a record of wrongs. The best way to do follow those instructions is to deal with problems when they come up, rather than avoiding them until they can no longer be avoided. Don't, in the words of Richard Dreyfuss to the Mayor of Amity in Jaws, "avoid this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the ___ (word omitted)." Is there something that you are holding against your spouse today that you need to confront?

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