Text: Song of Solomon 5:2 – 6:3
Thesis: To learn how to resolve conflict appropriately in order to keep marriages strong.
(1) Once Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, was asked if she had ever considered divorce. She replied, “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes!”
(2) “The potential for conflict exists anytime two people interact. Conflict, like many other things, such as anger or fear, is not bad. It is a part of being created uniquely different. What is important is what we choose to do with the conflict” (D. Friesen, Counseling and Marriage, p. 85).
(3) H. Norman Wright wrote: “Conflict is a normal part of marriage, but most couples have not been taught a healthy pattern of handling it” (H. Wright, Marriage Counseling, p. 229).
(4) Let us note how to resolve conflict appropriately:
I. Fact: Solomon and Abishag had conflicts, but learned to resolve them.
A. Inspiration records a conflict that took place between Solomon and his wife in 5:2 – 6:3. From this conflict, we may observe 6 stages of conflict (T. Nelson, The Book of Romance, pp. 109-50):
1. Both parties feel harmed (Abishag is upset with Solomon because he is running late and Solomon is upset with Abishag because she is already in the bed when he comes home and is unwilling to wake up to be with him)
2. A change of heart (Abishag regrets her previous decision and desires to change her decision)
3. Reaching out to make amends (Abishag goes to Solomon to tell him about her change of heart)
4. Communication (Solomon and Abishag discuss the issue)
5. Forgiveness (Solomon and Abishag apologize to each other and forgive each other)
6. Greater closeness and joy (Solomon and Abishag now grow closer)
B. Obviously, Solomon and Abishag had future conflicts, but this one is in the Bible as an example of how to handle conflict.
II. Fact: Married couples today will have conflicts, but they must learn to resolve them.
A. Conflict is inevitable.
1. What can couples argue about? Anything that can be thought of!
2. However, there are 4 “hot buttons” for conflict: 1) Money; 2) Sex; 3) Communication; and 4) Children (F. Lowery, Covenant Marriage, p. 203).
B. How a couple handles conflict is crucial to a lasting marriage.
1. “The best predictor of marital success is the way you handle disagreements” (H. Markman, Fighting for Your Marriage, p. 6).
2. “Unresolved conflict is like a malignant cancer that erodes the joy, intimacy, and commitment of your marriage” (Lowery 202).
C. Many couples employ a number of ineffective responses such as:
1. Failing to acknowledge the problem
3. Ignoring the conflict’s significance
5. Keeping score (Remember – Love keeps no record or wrongs [1 Cor. 13:5])
6. Attacking the person instead of the problem
7. Blaming someone else
8. Desiring to win no matter what
9. Giving in just to avoid conflict
10. Buying a special gift for the other person
(J. McDowell, The Secret of Loving, pp. 104-07)
D. Couples need to learn to utilize effective responses such as:
1. Stay in the now
2. Avoid score-keeping
3. Avoid lecturing
4. Don’t argue over details
5. Fight about one thing at a time
6. Unless abuse, hang in there
7. Go for a solution, rather than being right
E. Evidence has shown:
1. “Happy couples are more willing to modify their behavior than are unhappy couples. Happy couples use mutual ‘give and take’ much more as a way of dealing with disagreements than do couples who divorce. Couples who resolve conflict most effectively and constructively view each other as being more cooperative than do those couples who respond to conflict in a destructive manner” (N. Stinnett, Magnificent Marriage, p. 36).
2. “The most significant item that distinguished happy and unhappy couples in our national survey of 21,501 married couples as they deal with conflict is whether the partners feel understood when discussing problems” (D. Olson, Empowering Couples, p. 53).
F. From Ephesians 4:25-32, we learn 4 keywords when dealing with conflicts (Bob Russell, Marriage By The Book, pp. 59-63):
1. Honesty (v. 25)
2. Timing (v. 26) [“How wonderful it is to be able to say the right thing at the right time” (Prov. 15:23, TLB)]
3. Sensitivity (v. 29)
4. Forgiveness (vv. 31-32)
(1) “The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together” (Robert C. Dodds).
(2) “Don’t find fault, find a remedy” (Henry Ford).