Resolving Conflict–Practical Instructions
About the Guest
Pastor and well-known author Gary Chapman provides practical instruction on resolving conflict in marriage. What he says could change your marriage.
Gary ChapmanHe has degrees from some of the most respected colleges and seminaries. He's written some of the best-selling books of the past decade and appeared on numerous radio and television programs across the country. But Dr. Gary Chapman knows more than just a lot of scholarly theories and practical advice—he knows people. He knows how to relate to people, how to have fun and how to make people laugh, all the while giving practical tools to help improve relationships.
Pastor and well-known author Gary Chapman provides practical instruction on resolving conflict in marriage.
Resolving Conflict–Practical Instructions
Bob: Think back to your last marital conflict. How much time did you spend trying to talk it over? How much time did you spend, just hollering at each other? Dr. Gary Chapman says the hollering isn’t going to help.
Gary: You know the reason we don’t get around to resolving our conflicts? It’s because, instead of following what I have laid out for you tonight, we are way back upstream, preaching to each other. “Dumbest thing I ever heard of. Don’t love you? You know I love you, Woman. That’s stupid!” Folks, why do we get so much pleasure out of telling our spouses how stupid they are? Did you ever stop to think, “If your spouse really is stupid, you’re double stupid because you married them.”? I’d back off of that if I were you.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk about resolving conflict here on Valentine’s Day. Hang on—it’s going to be fun! Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on Tuesday,
February 14th, Valentine’s Day.
Dennis: Yes, really, I know where you are. You and I are together.
Bob: And Mary Ann and I are not together.
Dennis: —on the Love Boat with a thousand couples and Mary Ann’s in Little Rock.
Bob: Hi, Honey!
Dennis: And you’re floating in the Caribbean! (Laughter)
Bob: I am! Love you. I miss you, Sweetheart! (Laughter)
Dennis: But I’ve got—Here’s a question. We’re going to let the winner of this confess; okay?
Bob: So you’re asking a question and if you win—This is rigged from the beginning.
Dennis: It is not rigged. You’ll understand. Just trust me. “Luke, trust me.” Here’s the question. The person who had the most frequent conflict with his spouse gets to share it here, at the beginning of the broadcast, because we’re going to talk about resolving conflict. I know when mine was. I just want to hear when your most recent conflict was and see if you’d make me feel better.
Bob: Well, okay. Let’s see. The most recent conflict Mary Ann and I had was 1987, I think. It was 1987, was the last time we had any kind of fight. Was yours before that?
Dennis: Did you hear the click? (Laughter) The radio listener just pushed the button.
Bob: They just said, “Liar!” He’s a liar!”
Dennis: Can you remember?
Bob: I am not pulling up anything that’s been very recent for us.
Dennis: Good. That’s really good. I’m so proud of you and Mary Ann.
Bob: Has yours been in the last couple of weeks?
Dennis: You and I were at a party together last night, and I would have thought that would have caused some arguments; but in getting ready for that party—
Dennis: —which took place at our house. Barbara was a little high-strung; and she was bossing me around. Did yours truly take that? Was I just the dutiful husband who saluted?
Bob: You understood. You lived with her in an understanding way at that moment; didn’t you?
Dennis: Oh, you know I didn’t! You know what? The stress kind of got to me, too; and I kind of gritted my teeth and it really—on a ten-point scale, it was only a six or a seven.
Bob: Did you snap, or did you bite your tongue?
Dennis: I snapped at her. Yes, I did. Yes, I did. We’re okay today, but here’s the thing. For those of you who are looking for—not just comfort—that hosts of a daily radio program call FamilyLifeToday have plenty of lessons to learn. Well, you’re going to hear from one of the leading marriage experts in the world, Dr. Gary Chapman, today.
Bob: Gary Chapman is the Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Of course, he’s best-known as the author of the 5 million-selling book, The Five Love Languages. Every time I look at a best- seller list for Christian books, there it is—The Five Love Languages. I go, “Hasn’t everybody read this by now?” But it’s a good book. It’s a helpful book as you try to figure out how to express love to one another.
Dennis: We did hear from a tribe in Antarctica on an earlier broadcast I mentioned.
Bob: And they’re reading it?
Dennis: They do have it down in Antarctica. I don’t know what language they’ve got down there and what the tribe is, but—
Bob: Today, we’re going to hear Gary talking about the issue of conflict and how to resolve that appropriately and biblically. As our listeners are about to hear, Gary does that with a nice North Carolina accent.
Gary: [Recorded message] How to resolve conflicts. Now, by conflict, I mean that we disagree on something and we both feel strongly about it. If you don’t feel strongly about it, it’s not a conflict. It’s just a difference of opinion. How do we communicate when we have conflicts? I want you to jot down these ideas.
Number one, we must deal with anger. Why do I bring up anger? Because the most common emotion associated with conflict is anger. If we don’t deal with the anger, we won’t resolve the conflict. Let me give you a couple of ideas.
Number one is a temporary timeout. I get this idea from Proverbs, Chapter 30, verse 33, which says, “The forcing of wrath brings strife.” In other words, if you keep on talking when you’re angry about something, you will likely stir up more trouble. I think it was Ambrose Bierce who said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Most of us have made a few of those. Now wouldn’t it be better to call, “Timeout,” before you make the speech? Ephesians 4:26 says, “Being angry, sin not.” Notice carefully—not a sin to feel angry; but when you do feel angry, don’t sin. I’m suggesting a timeout will keep you from sinning.
Now, once the two of you agree on this technique, you can simply use the timeout sign. Please notice I’m saying, “Temporary timeout.” I’m not talking about three months. I’m talking about 30 minutes or an hour—long enough to let the temperature come down. While you’re on your timeout, you examine your anger. You ask yourself questions like, “Why am I angry about this? Is it what my spouse is saying? Is it the way they are saying it?” One husband said,
“Dr. Chapman, it’s the way she looks at me. She gives that look and I get knots in my stomach!”
Then I want to suggest, number two, that when you come back after your timeout, that you take turns talking. By which I mean, you say to your spouse, “Okay, Babe, I think I’m under control. I really appreciate the timeout. Is this a good time to talk?” If it’s not a good time to talk, you set a time to talk. When you sit down to talk, one of you will take five minutes and share your side. The other does not interrupt. Then they get five minutes to share their side. You don’t interrupt. Then you can have as many turns as you like, back and forth; but you don’t interrupt each other.
Third step, you practice listening. When you’re spouse is talking, you listen. James, Chapter 1, in verse 19, “Let every man be swift to hear.” In the context, it’s talking about hearing the Word of God, but it certainly has an application in human relationships. When your spouse is talking, don’t sit there and reload your guns. “Boy, they’re wrong with their first point. I can’t wait till they get through. I’ll shoot that one down. That’s wrong, too. I’ll get that one.” When it gets to be your turn, all of your points will come back to you. Right now, you’re trying to get their points.
Number four, you listen to the facts and the feelings. Why am I bringing up feelings? Because you are not likely to resolve a conflict if you don’t hear the feelings. Here is a wife saying to her husband, “I don’t understand it. Three nights this week, you came home an hour-and-a-half late. You don’t bother to call me. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Two nights, I had dinner on the table. The kids were climbing the wall and no husband. What am I supposed to do? Wait an hour-and-a-half on you? The least you could do is call me. The other night, I didn’t know whether to fix something or we were going out because we hadn’t decided. I was going in circles, wondering where you were and what’s going on. I mean, the least you could do—If you loved me that much, you’d call me.”
Well now, what are the facts? The fact is he came home later than she anticipated three nights this week. The fact is, two nights she had dinner on the table. The fact is the kids were climbing the wall. The fact is one night she didn’t know if they were eating in or going out. She was going in circles. The fact is he didn’t call her. But what is she feeling? Obviously frustration. What else is she feeling? Unloved. She told him that one. “If you loved me that much, you’d call me.” The woman feels unloved!
But how would the typical husband respond to that wife? Gentlemen, most of us would respond to her facts and ignore her feelings. Most of us would say something like, “Now just a minute. I was not an hour-and-a-half late last night. I looked at my watch when I came in. I was only 45 minutes late. What do you mean an hour-and-a-half? You always exaggerate. That’s what gets me about you!”
We walk out the door, slam the door, and start mowing the grass, resenting her. “The very idea! I get out there, and bust myself all day long, come home. She’s on my case because I didn’t call her. She thinks that’s all I’ve got to do is call her? If I had time to call her, I could come home.” Now aren’t we going to have a tender night tonight? We’ve got to listen to the facts and the feelings.
Number five, seek to understand. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse and understand how they might think what they are thinking and how they might feel what they’re feeling. Now ladies, it goes both ways. In the illustration I’m giving you, here is what the husband said.
He said, “I came home late. I didn’t call her. She’s right.” He said, “Dr. Chapman, I’m a salesman, okay? Here I am working on a $100,000 sale. You mean to tell me that I am supposed to say to my customer, ‘Excuse me. I’m going to be late. I must call my wife.’” He said, “What do you think that will do for sales? I can tell you what it will do. They will walk right out of my office.” Now, ladies, I’m not asking you to agree with him. I’m asking you to try to understand how he might think what he’s thinking and how he might feel what he’s feeling. You understand his feelings? Fear. He is afraid he is going to lose the sale. It’s not that difficult if you try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
And number six, you express understanding. You tell them. So, in this illustration, he would say something like this to his wife, “You know, Darling, as I sit here listening to you, I think I understand what you’re saying. When I don’t call you, you don’t know if I’m coming home in ten minutes or an hour-and-a-half. You don’t know whether to feed the children or hang on ten more minutes. I guess, Tuesday night we hadn’t discussed and you didn’t know if we were eating in or going out and you were kind of going in circles. I can see how that would be very frustrating for you. The other thing I hear you saying is that when I don’t call you, you feel like I don’t love you. Babe, I have to be honest with you. That thought never crossed my mind—that you would feel unloved. But, as I hear what you’re saying, I guess I can understand how you might feel that way.”
Not going to have a fight tonight! The man is not fighting the woman. The man is understanding the woman. She turns and says to him, “Well you know, Darling, as I listen to you, I guess I understand what you’re saying. If you interrupted your sales presentation to call me, your customer might take that as an opportunity to walk out on you and you would lose the sale. Babe, I have to be honest with you. If I were your customer, I wouldn’t walk out on you. I would buy from a man who would call his wife, but I hear what you’re saying and you’re probably right. There probably are some people who would walk out on you.
The woman is not fighting the man. The woman is understanding the man. Now, we haven’t solved our conflict yet but we are now ready to solve our conflict. There is only one more step and that is we ask, “How can we solve this problem?” Now when you get there, you will find a solution. Two adults who are looking for a solution will find one.
In this illustration, here is what they agreed on. He agreed that if he were working on anything less than $100,000, he would call her. He would risk anything under $100,000. She agreed that if he were more than ten minutes late and had not called her, she would pray, “Lord, let the deal go through!” They agreed that as soon as she finished praying, if he still had not called, she would feed the children. If she were hungry, she would eat with the children. He agreed that when he came home, he would find whatever was left, heat it in the microwave, and eat by himself. Or, if she were not hungry and wanted to wait and eat with him, she could. That was her call. Or, if she ate with the children and wanted to sit down with him while he ate and talk with him, she could; but that was her call.
On the night they hadn’t agreed whether they were eating in or going out, that as soon as she finished praying, she would take the children to McDonald’s. He agreed that he would pick up something on the way home for himself.
You know, the reason we don’t get around to resolving our conflicts is because, instead of following what I have laid out for you tonight, we are way back upstream, preaching to each other, “Dumbest thing I ever heard of! Don’t love you? You know I love you, Woman. That’s stupid!” Folks, why do we get so much pleasure out of telling our spouses how stupid they are? Did you ever stop to think, “If your spouse really is stupid, you’re double stupid because you married them’?” I’d back off of that if I were you.
I want to challenge you to one thing. If we can agree on this one assumption, then we can solve our conflicts. Can we all agree on this one assumption? If you are married, you are married to a human. (Laughter) Can we agree on that? If that is true, is it not also true that humans don’t think the same way and humans don’t feel the same way? And they never will, and you’re married to one! So why can’t we just say—when we realize that we disagree and we both feel strongly about it—why can’t one of us say, “Wait a minute. I believe we’ve got one of those conflicts. Why don’t we sit down here and listen. Do you want to be first or do you want me to be first?” Lay it on the table—work our way to the resolution. We agree on something, and we resolve the conflict. Every time you pull a conflict out from under the rug and you resolve one, you get closer together.
Do you understand why I would say that the two things that I’ve shared with you in these brief minutes could literally save thousands of marriages? If we can keep the love tank full and learn how to resolve our conflicts—Wow! We’ve removed two of the biggest barriers to making marriage for the long-haul. Amen?
Bob: [Studio] Well, we’ve been listening, again, today, to Dr. Gary Chapman here in “Love Week”, where the focus has been on marriage, and romance, and “Love to talk about resolving conflict.” That’s still appropriate because sometimes making up can be romantic.
Dennis: It can be. It wasn’t last night, but it can be. (Laughter)
Bob: Maybe tonight.
Dennis: Here’s what Gary reminded us of. Preaching doesn’t work. Preaching does not work. It worked better today than it worked last night, but there wasn’t any romance. I just want our listeners to be hearers and doers of what Gary talked about because, really, a good bit of the Next Testament is written to us to really show us what grace-filled relationships look like. We are going to hurt one another. We are going to miss one another. We are going to live in stress-filled moments (like I confessed at the beginning of today’s broadcast) and you have to learn how to admit your fault, your responsibility, and how to ask for forgiveness, and then how to kiss and make up, and keep moving forward—and make the most of the best and the least of the worst. That’s what Gary has reminded us of here today.
You know, Gary was speaking at a FamilyLife event. In case you, as a listener, are looking for some of the finest training we have ever offered anyone in the country, or in the world for that matter, the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, which we started here last weekend—We’ll have over 70 of these all across the country in the coming four or five months. I just want to invite you to come and join us at one of these conferences. There’s usually between 300 and a couple of thousand people attending these events. You’re not the only person who’s going to a first-time marriage conference. Come join us and get some good biblical training—but practical training in how to resolve conflict when it occurs.
Bob: And you’ll have fun, too! This really is a great weekend getaway for couples where you can relax. You can enjoy being with one another. The speakers do a great job. It’s really a fun weekend away together. Find out more online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got a link there. You click the link and you can find out when the events are being held in what cities; and you can sign up online, if you’d like. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Somebody on our team can answer any questions you have about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
If you’re looking for an event and you find that there’s not one in your community this spring or if the weekend doesn’t work for you, you might check out and see if there is an Art of Marriage® video event that is happening in your community. We’ve got a link to The Art of Marriage video events at FamilyLifeToday.com, as well. There are hundreds of these happening all around the country this spring.
If you don’t see one of those happening in your community, you can host one! I mean, it’s easy to do. Thousands of couples have already done it. They’ve loved the experience. We’ve gotten great feedback from the material; and it’s something that you and your spouse could do together and have an impact in the lives of your friends, family members, people at your church. Find out more about how to host an Art of Marriage event.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and about The Art of Marriage. We’ve got information on our website about Gary Chapman’ book, The Five Love Languages, if you’ve never read that book. His new book is called Happily Ever After: Six Secrets to a Successful Marriage; and it’s a helpful book, as well.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Go online to find out more, or call us—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”. When you get in touch with us, we’ll answer any questions you have and make arrangements to get the resources you want sent out to you.
Now, we always like to take just a minute to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who listen to the program, those of you who get in touch with us and let us know you’re listening. We love hearing from listeners and getting feedback about the program. We also appreciate it when you’re able to help support the program with a financial donation to keep us on the air, on this station and on our network of stations all across the country. We’re listener-supported—so, those donations are what make this program possible.
Today, If you make a donation, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a couple of romance resources—tips for husbands on how to romance your wife and tips for wives on how to romance your husband. Along with the romantic tips books, we’ll send you two prayer cards so you can be praying for one another more effectively in your marriage.
You can make an online donation at FamilyLifeToday.com simply by clicking the button that says, “I Care”; and when you fill out the form online, we’ll send you these resources automatically. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone. Just ask for the resources on romance. We’ll know what you’re talking about. Again, we hope the resources will be an encouragement to you—help you in your marriage relationship. And we appreciate your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to introduce you to Chris and Cindy Beall. You’re going to hear a remarkable story of God’s healing in a marriage relationship that was badly broken. I hope you can tune it.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. See you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLifeToday.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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