Fighting and conflict in marriage is inevitable. Even the happiest and healthiest couples will disagree and argue at times. As Christians, however, we are called to handle conflict biblically and in a way that honors God and strengthens our marriage. In this blog post, we will explore some of the common causes of marital conflict and provide biblical wisdom for dealing with disagreements in a godly manner.
Marriage is an intimate partnership established by God between a man and woman to reflect the spiritual relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). It is designed to be a lifelong union that provides companionship, spiritual growth, and fulfillment. Despite being ordained by God, every marriage will face challenges and trials that can lead to conflict if not handled carefully. Fighting with your spouse can cause hurt, resentment, and damage the relationship. As followers of Christ, we must learn to manage conflict in a way that resolves issues, deepens intimacy, and brings glory to God.
- Conflict is inevitable in marriage and does not necessarily indicate a flawed relationship.
- Common sources of marital conflict include finances, intimacy, responsibilities, in-laws, communication issues, and more.
- We contribute to conflict through our own sinfulness and must take responsibility for our part.
- God provides guidance for handling disagreements constructively and restoring unity.
- Resolving conflict requires humility, active listening, compromise, forgiveness, and commitment to the marriage covenant.
- Prayer is essential for changing hearts, gaining wisdom, and protecting the marriage bond.
Common Sources of Marital Conflict
Even in healthy marriages built on godly principles, husbands and wives will inevitably encounter issues and differences that lead to arguments and conflict. Some common problem areas include:
Money-related issues are one of the most prevalent sources of conflict for couples. Disagreements can arise over debt, spending habits, financial planning, tithing, budgeting, and earning power. Unequal financial contributions to the household can also create tension and strife. As the Bible warns, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Mishandling finances can poison a marriage.
A lack of physical and emotional intimacy often damages marriages. Sexual issues like mismatched libidos, sexual dysfunction, pornography addiction, or adultery can severely fracture trust and affection between spouses. Even without overt sexual sin, couples may struggle to maintain closeness through quality conversation, affection, and intentional time together. If not addressed, these intimacy gaps leave couples vulnerable to conflict and isolation.
Conflict often erupts over the distribution of labor in the home. Disagreements about household chores, child-rearing, and family priorities frequently spill into marital strife. Perceived imbalances in the division of housework or childcare lead spouses to feel overburdened, unappreciated, and resentful. God calls for mutual submission and humility in marriage (Ephesians 5:21). When spouses jockey for power rather than serve one another, conflict results.
Relationships with extended family can drive wedges between spouses. Meddling parents or in-laws who criticize and judge their child’s spouse often incite marital disputes. Even well-meaning extended family can overstep boundaries and cause strain. Couples must present a united front in setting healthy limits on outside influence. The Bible warns that “a person’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). Loyalty between spouses comes before all other human relationships.
Communication problems undermine many marriages. Partners may disconnect emotionally, criticize harshly, or dismiss each other’s feelings and needs. Defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling during conflict can inflict deep wounds. Productive communication involves attentive listening, understanding, and affirmation. Without this, relationships crumble. God desires unity, compassion, and intimacy in the marriage bond.
Entering marriage with idealistic expectations of a problem-free relationship leads to disillusionment and conflict. No spouse is without flaws. Adjusting to a spouse’s personality quirks, annoying habits, and occasional mistakes requires grace and flexibility. Partners must offer mercy and forgiveness to one another while prayerfully working through issues. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Sin and Selfishness
Ultimately, the root cause of marital strife is human sinfulness and selfishness. Our own fleshly pride, anger, laziness, judgmental attitudes, and self-absorption contribute to spousal conflicts. We react defensively to perceived slights or unfair treatment. We lash out in anger rather than responding gently. We insist on getting our own way at our spouse’s expense. We must repent and ask God to replace sinful impulses with humility, patience, and mutual service.
Taking Personal Responsibility
During marital conflicts, our instinct is often to blame our spouse and justify our own words or actions. However, we must take ownership of our own contributions to strife rather than simply faulting our partner. As sinners, we invariably provoke arguments through impatience, disrespect, selfishness, dishonesty, pride, and other sinful behaviors. Even if we do not view ourselves as primarily at fault, we play a role in conflict through defensiveness and escalating tensions. We must humbly examine our own hearts before attempting to address issues (Matthew 7:3-5).
The Bible calls us to sober self-reflection: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). This principle applies to marriage as much as any other sphere of life. Searching our hearts will reveal ways we may be igniting conflict through word, deed, attitude, tone, or inaction. As we become aware of our own faults, we can repent and change destructive patterns. This self-awareness equips us to address issues without accusing or blaming. God stands ready to transform us into vessels of peace and unity.
Applying Biblical Principles
Scripture provides foundational guidance for handling marital conflict in godly ways. Applying biblical principles will help resolve disagreements and create deeper intimacy between spouses. Key scriptural truths include:
Value the Marriage Covenant
According to Jesus, marriage is lifelong and unbreakable: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9). This truth rules out divorce or separation as options for dealing with strife. Problems must be worked through patiently over time. Viewing marriage as a permanent covenant motivates spouses to invest fully in reconciliation and change.
Practice Humility and Submission
Pride and the need to be right fuel marital arguments. Scripture calls us to humility, mutual submission, and serving one another: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Adopting humility involves sincerely listening, validating a spouse’s perspective, confessing faults, and preferring one another. This fosters peace.
Letting go of grudges and wrongs suffered is essential for restoring unity: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness may involve restitution and behavior change by the offending spouse. But the one offended must release bitterness and grant mercy. Forgiveness brings healing.
Speak with Love and Self-Control
Conflict escalates through reactive, heated words. Scripture says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4:29). Partners must bridle their tongues, think carefully before speaking, and season words with grace and affection. This defuses tension.
Spouses’ hearts and minds cannot be changed solely through human effort. Prayer invites God’s wisdom and power to defuse anger and produce change. “If two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). Couples must cry out to God together and surrender marital problems into His hands.
Seek Counsel and Accountability
Receiving guidance from pastors, mentors, and counselors reinforces key principles and provides an outside perspective. Counsel also brings accountability for making hard changes to end destructive habits. Scripture says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Wise help is invaluable.
Focus on Blessing the Spouse
Instead of demanding change or justifying themselves, spouses must seek how they can love, serve, and build up their partner. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). This selfless focus on the other’s good helps cement affection and unity.
Practical Steps for Resolving Conflict
Along with applying biblical truths, couples can take practical action steps to address disagreements in edifying ways. Here is a concise roadmap:
- Set a time to discuss issues in a spirit of patience, care, and humility. Do not argue in the heat of the moment.
- Each spouse should share their perspective on problems without interruption or judgment from the other. Practice active listening.
- Identify core issues beneath surface arguments by asking questions to understand each other’s true feelings and needs. Get to the heart of conflicts.
- Confess your own contributions to the problems in humility and sincerity. Do not react defensively if your spouse does the same.
- Brainstorm compromises and solutions that honor both spouses’ viewpoints, needs, and values. This requires creativity and sacrifice from both parties.
- Affirm each other and restate your commitment to the marriage. Share specific things you appreciate about your spouse.
- Take tangible steps to implement solutions, change harmful patterns, and prevent recurring issues. This may involve counsel.
- Continue communicating gently and seeking intimacy. Learn from conflicts and allow them to push you closer to God and your spouse.
With prayerful application of biblical principles and dedicated effort, husbands and wives can resolve arguments and grow stronger through conflict. The joy of unity restored is well worth the temporary discomfort of disagreements. God sustains marriages that follow His blueprints for healthy relationships.
The Blessing of Conflict
While fighting with a spouse is unpleasant, the Bible teaches that trials have purifying effects in the lives of believers. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-4). Marital conflicts, as painful as they may be, provide opportunities to glorify God, refine our character, grow closer to our spouse, and model Christ-like love.
Handled correctly in a spirit of humility and grace, conflict can actually strengthen the marriage bond. Working through disagreements biblically builds intimacy as couples open up, understand each other better, and learn to meet one another’s needs. Shared trials also deepen partners’ commitment and motivate them to seek God together. Christian marriage counselor Leslie Vernick observes, “Heated conflict contains the seeds of intimacy because it forces you to deal with issues that otherwise get buried and brushed aside.”
As much as possible, couples should view discord as a catalyst for positive change. With prayer and biblical guidance, tumultuous conflicts and trials can produce greater unity, maturity, and joy in marriage. The trials themselves are brief, but their fruit is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17). God can use every dispute and disagreement for good.
Conclusion and Key Takeaways
Marital conflict inevitably arises even in satisfying, God-honoring marriages. Common sources of discord include finances, intimacy gaps, household responsibilities, extended family, communication breakdowns, and unrealistic expectations. While sinful attitudes and behaviors contribute to fighting, couples must take personal responsibility for their part in conflicts rather than blaming their spouse.
Scripture offers powerful principles for managing strife in a constructive manner, such as valuing the marriage covenant, humbling oneself, granting forgiveness, speaking with care, praying together, and seeking outside help. Practical steps like setting a peaceful time to talk through issues, brainstorming win-win solutions, and affirming each other can also facilitate reconciliation. With prayer and reliance on God’s wisdom, husbands and wives can weather arguments and become stronger as they learn and grow through the challenges.
While never pleasant, disagreements present opportunities to deepen intimacy, refine character, and bring glory to God as we model His sacrificial, forgiving love in marriage.