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Right Words: Keys to Diffusing Marital Conflict

In marriage and all relationships, communicating with a purpose, especially when engaged in conflict is necessary for getting your point across without escalating the tension. The words you choose to say ideally contribute to a solution at hand and refrain from creating a highly charged and emotional battle with your spouse or loved one. According to author Paul David Tripp, the words we use must be chosen with care. He states:

"It is not just about the words we say, but also about the words we choose not to say. Winning the war is about being prepared to say the right thing at the right moment, exercising self-control. It is refusing to let our talk be driven by passion and personal desire but communicating instead with God's purposes in view. It is exercising the faith necessary to be part of what God is doing at that moment."

Unresolved conflict can develop into bitterness

In the heat of a major meltdown, it can be difficult to reign in the ugly, hurtful words one wants to use in retaliation. In his book, Winning the War of Words, I found the most helpful instruction Mr. Tripp outlined was to remind couples that winning the war means to speaking to serve others in love. In marriage, the couple is called to serve one another, which includes putting off self-indulgent talk to putting on talk that flows out of a love for others. Mr Tripp explains,

"Serving in love does not mean that I become a slave to the agenda of everyone around me. It does not mean being a doormat. Rather, it means living with redemptive purpose. Love desires another's highest good. Winning the war of words comes from bondage to me (my passions and desires) and is therefore free to minister to you. ... When husbands and wives disagree over the same old stuff once again, they need to do more than curse the fact that their marriage just doesn't work or that the other person never seems to have a clue. The need to see where they are caught and they need to respond to one another, not with a demand agenda but with a restoration agenda."

Many couples I counsel believe the purpose and goal of their marriage is their own happiness. The spiritual reality is remembering that all relationships are in our lives for healing purposes; a refining experience that the Lord allows each person to face to be reconciled with the past, heal old hurts and wounds and discard any bitterness that hinders mutual, reciprocal love.

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