There’s this couple who somehow managed for fifty years to have a conflict-free marriage. On the event of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, a local newspaper reporter asked them about their storied happy marriage.
“What’s the secret behind your relationship’s success? How have you both managed, for all these years, to be known as the town’s most peaceful and loving couple?”
With a gleam in his eye, Tom glanced up at the young reporter.
“Well, it began very early, on our honeymoon in fact. We went to the Grand Canyon and took a coupla’ horses to the bottom. We hadn’t gone too far down when my wife’s horse stumbled. She right near fell off the thing. I saw her give the horse a stern look, then she just said, ‘That’s once.’ About a mile later, that horse lost its footing again and made Linda drop her water. She paused, gave the horse that same stern look, then said, ‘That’s twice.’ Course, as that poor horse’s luck would have it, he stumbled yet again. This time, my wife got off her horse, took a gun from her purse, then shot the animal!”
“I couldn’t believe it! First off, I didn’t know she had a gun. Second, I didn’t know she knew how to use a gun. And third, I didn’t know she’d kill a horse for bein’ a horse. I shouted at her, ‘What’s wrong with you woman? Why’d you shoot that poor animal? Are you crazy?’ She slowly gazed up at me with a look I’d seen before: ‘That’s once.’”
The reporter dropped his pen and paper. “Then what?”
“We’ve been happily married ever since.”
Old Tom laughed, but the reporter couldn’t tell if he’d been fooling around or not. He published the story as-is the next day, much to Old Tom’s delight.
A Peaceful, Easy Marriage
OK, I’ll admit it. That’s a total pastor story. You know what a pastor story is? It’s an embellished illustration pastors use to make a point. Sometimes they’ve really happened and sometimes not. Sometimes they become exaggerated as more and more pastors use the story, like a spiritual game of Telephone. Although I’d like to believe the story I just shared has some origins in truth, Tom and Linda’s tall tale underscores this chapter’s divisive topic: conflict.
I hate to break it to you, but your marriage will never be conflict-free. One person + one person = two perspectives, and two perspectives = inevitable conflict. Yes, there are healthy ways to deal with and mitigate conflict, but major differences of opinion will be a constant thorn in the side of both people in the relationship. Over time, you may even begin to believe that the other person is the thorn. The most difficult part about conflict in marriages is the fact that we’re warring with the one we profess to love.
So, aside from the threat of horse-murdering violence, how can a man and woman in a covenant relationship fight without becoming enemies?
Conflict Can Be Good for You
Conflict is like dynamite. If used rightly, it helps people. Used wrongly, it kills.
Conflict is also like fire. It will burn you, but it’ll also guide your way.
The key aspect in both of those illustrations is the knowledge and experience of the one wielding the substance. If a person understands the constructive aspects of a destructive device, they’ll be much more wary about its dangers and more intent on reaping its benefits.
If you know how to deal with it, conflict can actually benefit your marriage. In fact, conflict can push your marriage to new heights, but only if you allow it to be a sanctifying process and not a game you have to win at all costs.
(This is an excerpt from my newly released book: Mr. & Mrs.: How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage! You can order it now by clicking here.)
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