Marriage can turn into a score-keeping battle of wins and losses. Like it or not, conflict happens in every relationship. It’s coming your way.
And while it’s true that there’s no controlling whether conflict happens, you can control what you will do when it shows up. The Bible gives us some powerful principles that can heal a broken marriage. It gives us a roadmap that will keep a strong marriage strong, and make it stronger. They are a call to commitment—to promises. I refer to them as the “I Do” Promises. Try them on for size and see if they just might rehabilitate the most precious relationship in your life.
1. I PROMISE TO BUILD AND NOT BREAK.
In conflict, there are war-tactics and there are peace-making tactics. Which you choose will determine whether you win or lose in the end. You can insist on winning the battle, but you’re going to lose the war. Here’s the delusion: we think by winning the little conflict, we’ll prevent ourselves from losing the herculean struggle. Often, we win the little hill and lose the mountain range.
Insist on coming out on top of daily arguments and you’ll forfeit the life-long objective of love. We have to make the promise to our spouse—to ourselves—that we will build and not break in our marriage.
2. I PROMISE TO FOCUS ON THE GOOD AND NOT THE BAD.
There’s a gap in every relationship. It’s the gap between what you expected was going to happen, and what actually happens: reality.
Some of you like it when your spouse screws up because you see your chance to be right. You love to believe the worst, just so you can win. But couples who stay in love for the long haul have made it a habit to assume the best about each other. They are generous in their assumptions.
…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
This isn’t about deluding yourself that you married the perfect person. Of course you didn’t. But hey! They married an imperfect person too: YOU! You don’t have to pretend there’s nothing ever wrong in your relationship. Just choose to focus on the good instead.
3. I PROMISE TO TALK AND NOT WALK.
Communicate. Don’t evacuate. Focus on restoring the relationship. Don’t just walk off or run away.
If you get so angry that you shut down, stop talking and take off, you need to know you’re in dangerous territory. When you harbor resentment and refuse to reconcile, you are giving bitterness permission to wire your relationship with explosives and handing it the detonator. Promise to talk and not walk.
4. I PROMISE TO GIVE AND NOT TAKE.
Establish a “NO-BULLY-ZONE” in your marriage. We have them in schools. Why not put one in your house?
When you have conflict with your spouse, make sure neither of you ever leave the discussion feeling as though you’ve lost. Admit your own desire to be right and commit to never bullying your spouse into submission. Taking conflict to that level will destroy your relationship.
Love isn’t about pulling someone up to be where you are. It’s about climbing down off your high horse, descending beneath your loved one and lifting them above you. Love is about believing, not belittling. It’s about giving not taking.
Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!
I Corinthians 13:4-8 (CEV)
You have a choice today: You can fight to win… and lose. Or you can choose to fight right… and win. Pour grace on your spouse. Extend forgiveness. Give of yourself. The “I Do” Promises will rehabilitate what is broken. They will reconcile your relationship. They have the power to rebuild your love.