Mark: Well it was bound to happen at some time. We’ve both been different people since putting back the pieces of our broken relationship six years ago. We interact differently, we respond differently, we work to think differently. But Friday night we went back to old ways.
Jill: That’s right. We had a big ‘ole fight on Friday night and both reverted back to old ways. We promise honesty here…so you’re getting it.
Mark: We even went to bed angry with each other. I know…the Bible says that you shouldn’t let the sun go down on your anger. But we did because we were each rehearsing in our head and our heart why we were right.
Jill: It was still tense on Saturday morning but God was working on each of our hearts. Finally one of us said, “I’m sorry I hurt you last night. Will you please forgive me?” The other answered, “I forgive you,” and followed it with, “I know I hurt you too. I’m sorry for that. Will you please forgive me?” And forgiveness was extended. We talked for a few minutes about how we fell back into old patterns we hadn’t experienced in years, but then moved on with our day putting the conflict behind us with the closure forgiveness provided.
Mark: It happens to all of us. There’s always a battle between the flesh and the Spirit going on inside of us. The flesh wants to do things “my way” and the Spirit leads us to do things God’s way. Our goal is to do things God’s way far more often than doing things our way. But sometimes we falter…and when we do, we need to know what to do. Here are four important steps to take to clean up a relational mess:
- Recognize the reality of spiritual warfare. Your spouse is not the enemy. The Bible tells us that Satan comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He wants to divide us and will whisper lies that keep us separated when conflict happens.
- Take your thoughts captive. When we’re sideways with each other, we rehearse our position in our head over and over. Sometimes we have an entire argument in our head–of course we always come out on top. But being right can’t be more important than being in relationship. In No More Perfect Marriages we talk about the fact that the “slow fade of defensiveness happens when reasons trump relationship.” Stop rehearsing your reasons and start refocusing your thoughts on the good in your spouse and the importance of your relationship.
- Do the right thing. Own your part. Apologize for whatever you contributed to the mess–even if it was (in your opinion) less than what your spouse contributed.
- Offer a full apology. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Tell him or her what you’re sorry for and then ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. This is the part that is often forgotten. When forgiveness isn’t requested then it rarely given, and that’s what keeps us from experiencing closure to our conflict.
Jill: Conflict is a part of relationships and when it’s not handled well, the mess needs to be cleaned up. But it doesn’t have to derail our relationship. If you fall back into old ways, don’t get discouraged…just get right with each other as soon as you can.
What about you? Of the four steps above, which do you need to be most intentional about?
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