My grandmother’s Norman Rockwell figurine is permanently placed on top of the piano. My father-in-law’s collection of watches will always fill a corner of Rob’s dresser drawer, dead batteries and all. We both hold on to keepsakes the other doesn’t value or understand. In over 25 years of cleaning, organizing, and shuffling possessions from one address to another, we’ve had our share of conflict. We don’t always see eye to eye on what to keep or purge from our house.
As we face this inevitable conflict, it can be positive or negative. On the up side, we can choose to value each other over our stuff. We can practice problem-solving as a team. We can open the door to sharing ideas and knowing one another better. We’re challenged to be our best selves—listening, working, and putting each other first.
Yet conflict can also bring out the worst in our nature, stirring up anger and driving us apart. We’re not just fighting about material things in the house. We’re fighting for our identity and sense of “home.” Before we can solve any dispute about what to save or throw, we have to eliminate the “clutter” keeping us from coming together.
Here are five tips to clear the way to agreement and unity:
Kill the bunny.
When we start to tackle conflict, it’s tempting for the discussion to rabbit-trail into other issues and complaints. Keep the main thing the main thing. Focus on the one keep-or-throw question at hand instead of trying to reinvent your entire relationship dynamic or five-year financial plan.
You might think your husband’s grade-school clay sculpture is stupid, but he’s not stupid. Your wife’s affection for vintage salt shakers does not compete for her affection for you. Keep insults, sarcasm, and criticism out of your conversation. Avoid remarks you know will push your partner’s buttons. It’s impossible to resolve a thing when you’re too mad or hurt to see straight. Attack the problem instead of each other.
Keep the past in the past. Dragging old mistakes and tensions into the now will push you farther apart. It will feed discouragement, stealing hope for tomorrow. Declare confidence in your relationship by pressing on to work it out. Cast a vision for a peaceful space in your house that you both can enjoy together. Give yourselves the gift of change you can look forward to.
Clear the decks.
Dedicate time to talk through your differences. Give yourselves the benefits of privacy, quiet, and energy. Don’t fight about sex in bed after midnight, argue over parenting while your little darlings can hear you in the next room, or wrangle out your budget in front of the car dealer. Don’t start sorting and cleaning when your garage sale starts in two hours! If your conversation becomes heated, show respect by taking time to step away and cool off. Do what’s needed to finish the hard work of resolving your issue.
Count the cost.
Is it more valuable to win the debate or win your loved one’s heart? Let go of your need to have the last word in your house. Be willing to listen, compromise, and honor each other’s perspective. If you walk away feeling one of you lost and the other won, you both lost.
One of the greatest benefits of resolved conflict is the intimacy it can bring. You can celebrate your tenacious marriage. You’ll experience a fresh sense of unity. You hold hope for the future, knowing you’re strong enough to overcome any battle. Let God use your conflict to deepen your love and commitment today.
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
Any comfort from his love?
Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly
with each other, loving one another,
and working together with one mind and purpose.”
(Philippians 2:1-2 NLT)
Grow a closer marriage through quality time, prayer, and time in the Word, together: