Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Relationships/marriage, Part 2
Second of three Mental Health Vitamins about marriage, with insight gleaned from the Song of Solomon.
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
No matter how “perfectly suited” for one another we are, there WILL BE times of conflict, differences of opinion, angst and frustration in our marriages!
In fact, one of the only things we can be certain of is that the marriage journey will have potholes, ditches and boulders along the way. Gender differences, personality characteristics and family-of-origin influences all contribute to assuring that husband and wife will have times of misunderstanding and conflict.
The Song of Solomon, an allegory of marriage in the Old Testament of the Bible, provides examples of a loving couple, Solomon and his wife, who go through periods of conflict. In their marital story are examples of times when there is misunderstanding, missed opportunities for closeness and resulting separation that must be addressed between them.
Of course, I presume this is God’s way of illustrating to us that not only is conflict natural and to be expected, but also that He has provided a “roadmap” for discussion, reconciliation, repair and solution.
As conflict erupted in this couple’s relationship, we learn how they masterfully avoided the possible pitfalls that we may experience when differences rear their ugly heads. … Flee, Fix, Fume, Fight!
“I sleep but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying ‘Open for me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered in dew, My locks with the drops of night.’” (SS 5:2)
“I have taken off my robe; How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; How can I defile them?” (SS 5:3)
These passages reveal the beginning of a disagreement between Solomon and his wife. He has been working late into the night, and when he comes home he wants to be comforted and cherished by his wife.
However, she is already in bed, is apparently annoyed by his request and responds with words that, in today’s vernacular, may be interpreted as, “I’m already in bed and I have a headache … go away.”
This scenario has been played out in many homes. There is desire, there is a difference in what to do with it, and there is momentary separation. However, Solomon and his wife reconcile their differences and reunite, reminding us to avoid these pitfalls:
- Flee! Resist the temptation to run away from your mate when there is conflict. Rather, it is better to determine if NOW is the right time to discuss the differences. If not, schedule a time very soon when you CAN resolve the differences.
- Fix! While we, of course, want to fix the issues that are dividing us momentarily, it is important to first validate the feelings associated with the conflict … then find a solution. “I can see that this really angered you, and for that I apologize. Here is a suggestion of how we can come to an agreed-upon solution.”
- Fume! Sometimes we can get into the mindset of sitting in the anger and letting it gain major power over us. That is why seeking solution is an important next step.
- Fight! It can be human nature to continue to fight until you win. However, winning at any cost is not a win at all.
Conflict is to be expected in an intimate relationship. The important thing to remember is …
“In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26).
We may not solve the problem before the sun sets, but we CAN AGREE to remove the anger so that tomorrow we CAN solve the issue! If we go to bed angry, the enemy can certainly use it to fuel more differences and more distance between the two of us.
Some healthy “fighting” reminders:
- Be committed to honesty and mutual respect – even in times of disagreement and disharmony.
- Make sure the “weapons” you use to “fight” are not “deadly.” Don’t let a disagreement entice you to bring out the “heavy artillery” against your mate!
- Agree together when the time is right to sit down and solve.
- Watch your words and guard your tone – make sure that they remain solution-focused.
- Be ready with positive solutions to the issue.
- Don’t “swing” at your mate in public! Don’t air the dirty laundry!
- When it’s all over and solution is agreed upon, clean up the “mess” left behind you. Kiss and seal the deal!
We can love our mates and yet, simultaneously, at times not like him/her. However, we do have love … that undergirds all issues and allows us to rectify differences so that we can get back to enjoying the gift of marriage!