Conflict in Marriage

From Craig Swanson…

Have you ever thought about why you get angry at your spouse? If you think about it, it’s rarely or never righteous indignation, it’s usually sin. If we’re going to root out sin, in this case conflict in our marriage, we need to find the source. Where did it begin? Paul Tripp helps us as he gives us 5 steps that descend into conflict.

  • Desire
  • Need
  • Expectation
  • Disappointment
  • Conflict (Anger, retaliation)

We desire many things – many of them good and legitimate things. But we really need very few things. Air, food, water, shelter and health are about all the physical things that we really need. Spiritually we need regeneration – we need to be in Christ – that is about it. We need nothing outside of these things. Our problem is when our desire, (even a legitimate one) becomes a perceived need.

Let me give you an example. (Purely hypothetical of course) I desire that my wife not drop all her stuff on the kitchen counter when she comes home. (An okay desire) When that becomes a need, I begin the slippery slope. Because then I expect her to not drop her stuff on the counter when she comes home. Now when she drops her stuff on the counter I am disappointed that my expectations weren’t met and I respond in anger or irritation. (Sin) Do I desire a clean counter? Yes. Do I need a clean counter? No.

Let’s look at a deeper example. My wife desires that I show her love. (A very good desire) My wife needs me to show her love. (Careful) My wife expects me to show her love. I can assure you, at some point in time I will disappoint her. Disappointment will usually lead to irritation, anger or conflict – or all three. The desire to be loved is a God-given desire. In fact I am commanded to love my wife like Christ loved the church. But because of my flesh I will fail to do that perfectly. (And sometimes just poorly)

This is where gospel thinking can help us. The truth is we were born sinful and selfish and rebellious to God’s authority. We all deserved hell. It is by God’s common grace that all mankind is not there now. It is by God’s extraordinary grace as Christians that He saved us and gave us eternal life. Now everything we need, we have in Him. Think about this – we desire to be loved by our spouse, but it is not a need because we are perfectly loved by God.

When Jesus came to earth, I’m sure that He desired that mankind, whom He created, love and respect Him. No. But He, God Himself was spit upon, beaten and hung on a cross. Did He need and expect our love? No. Was He disappointed and angry? No. He said, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus, who is our great example, desired our love but He did not need it because He was perfectly loved by the Father.

Here is a question we need to ask ourselves – “If I’m not getting what I want, why isn’t God’s grace sufficient for me?” Paul was suffering from some kind of “thorn in the flesh” from which he wanted relief. (A legitimate desire) He kept asking God to take it away, but God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” God’s grace is sufficient for every circumstance. Remember, what do I deserve? Hell. Everything else is grace. Everything you need, love and eternal security, you have in Christ.

If we keep our desires in perspective and don’t turn them into needs that we expect our spouse to meet, we will sin less and have less conflict in our marriage. That will free us up to love them and serve them without expectation of something in return.

Do you find yourself getting irritated? Memorize this question and then internalize it – “If I’m not getting what I want, why isn’t God’s grace sufficient for me?”