Healthy Conflict in Marriage

Conflicts are not a sign - Stock Adobe - CanvaHealthy Conflict … Do those two words go together? A lot of people think that a good marriage is one where there ISN’T any conflict. But that’s not true. It’s a natural occurrence in marriage.

“What most spouses are surprised to learn is that marriage probably generates more anger than they will experience in any other relationship. When two people live together with a commitment to increasing closeness, vulnerability, and intimacy, the potential for fear, hurt, frustration, and misunderstanding is enormous, which means there is also great potential for anger. …The problem is that you don’t understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger. You haven’t learned how to express your anger in healthy ways.” (Gary and Carrie Oliver)

We didn’t realize that fact earlier in our marriage, but it actually makes sense. We expect more from our spouse than we do from others so it takes us by surprise and deeply angers us that they could hurt us to the extent that they do. But we don’t have to stay surprised. And we don’t have to stay angry. We can do better than that; but to get there it will take some real intentionality to learn how to deal with conflict in healthy ways.

Regarding Healthy Conflict:

Thomas Whitman and Thomas Bartlett, in their book, “The Marriage Mender,” give the following insight about conflict, and healthy fighting habits:

“Couples don’t fight because they DON’T care about each other. They fight because they do. When people invest themselves in marriage, they fear that they won’t get their needs met. Or they fear they’ll get hurt. These are common, natural fears that lead to common, natural conflicts.

“Thus, conflict is not something to be avoided in marriage. It is something to be resolved. Couples get into trouble when they don’t know how to deal with conflict. Whether they try to win all conflicts (aggressive), deny feelings that would lead to conflict (passive-aggressive), or avoid conflict altogether (passive), they settle into harmful habits, because they don’t know how to fight in an honest, honorable way.

“Our competitive culture views all conflict as something to be won or lost. This is true even with interpersonal conflict. While some couples get into this mindset, many find it troublesome. Even if you win, your beloved spouse loses. Unless you are a hardened gloater, that’s not a satisfactory solution. No wonder so many of us don’t approach conflict very well! Comparing ‘happy’ marriages with ‘unhappy’ marriages, studies have found no significant difference in the AMOUNT of conflict, but happy couples tend to HANDLE conflict better.”

Thoughts on Conflict that is Healthy

So, to help you handle conflict in a better and healthier way, we’re sharing some thoughts written by Heather Long, from the article, “Fighting with Your Spouse.” Below each tip, we have added scriptures. Heather writes:

“The words healthy and conflict seem contrary in meaning, but the truth is—conflict can help a couple’s relationship to grow. The conflict we have with others spurs growth in us. Yes, conflict can be unhealthy if we allow it to be destructive—but conflict can be constructive too. …Here are a few key tips to keep in mind in order to preserve the healthy conflict and not let it get out of control.”

• “Keep it calm and level, as much as you may feel like ranting and raving, it accomplishes nothing for you and your spouse.”

And then God’s Word says this:

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.(Proverbs 13:28)

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.(Galatians 5:15)

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.(Ecclesiastes 9:17)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…(Philippians 1:27)

Secondly, to Have Healthy Conflict:

• “Stay clear on what it is you are disagreeing about. Don’t let it wander to old insults or injuries.”

Here are Some Important Scriptures that Make This Point:

Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious. But a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly. At the end they are wicked madness —and the fool multiplies words.(Ecclesiastes 10:12-13)

Love is not rude, and it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs.(1 Corinthians 13:5)


• “You know the little things that will set off your spouse? Refrain from jabbing at those sore spots.”

Yes, but there’s no doubt that this is hard to do! However, as the saying goes, “Why poke the bear?” Do you really think you’re helping the situation by jabbing at your spouse? And do you think this is what God wants from us?

We want to ask you—as parents, do you enjoy watching your children poking at and hurting each other? Why would our perfect Heavenly Father want that from us?

In the Bible, we’re told:

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.(Hebrews 12:14-15)

A gentle answer turns away wrath. But a harsh word stirs up anger.(Proverbs 15:1)

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.(Romans 14:19)

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel. Instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.(2 Timothy 2:23-26)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.(Ephesians 4:30-32)

Please Realize:

• “When you’re too angry to be reasonable, be reasonable enough to table the disagreement for a time when the two of you can hash it out without screaming or yelling.”

Here are some Scriptures that Makes This Point:

Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

He who guards his lips guards his life. But he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.(Proverbs 13:3)

He who guards his mouth, and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.(Proverbs 21:23)

A fool gives full vent to his anger. But a wise man keeps himself under control.(Proverbs 29:11)

A patient man has great understanding. But a quick-tempered man displays folly.(Proverbs 14:29)

Lastly, for Healthy Conflict Resolution:

• “Practice active listening and don’t interrupt each other. It’s important that you hear what your spouse is saying, and they hear you too.”

Supportive Scriptures:

He who answers before listening —that is his folly and his shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.(Proverbs 12:15)

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it —he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:19-26)

Oh, how we wish we would quit deceiving ourselves into thinking that we can act like that devil and that’s okay! It’s not! It’s not for you and your spouse and it’s for us, as children of God.

“If you’re locked in a power struggle with your mate, step back, take a breath and consider solving the problem together. Let go of your anger and realize that ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.(Matthew 12:25) Relax, remembering the good traits of your mate and work together in solving your marital problems.” (David B. Hawkins)

We pray you will, and we pray the same in our marriage relationship. Again, we wrote parts of this message a number of years ago, but it’s as relevant as ever.

We encourage you to read the comments below and see how God touches your heart to inspire you to work towards healthy conflict resolution. May the Lord’s ways be lifted up and followed by both of you in your marriage!

Cindy and Steve Wright


To help you even further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:

7 Essentials - Marriage book


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7 responses to “Healthy Conflict in Marriage

  1. The following comment was sent to us, concerning this Marriage Message:

    Amen! What an encouraging message!! Funny, it is everything that The Lord has been speaking to me in bits and pieces and when He did, I said AMEN (at that time, especially the words of 1 Peter 4!!!), but when the reality hit home, my faith waned! How pathetic our hearts are…. How so very badly we need God each time and each moment…….!! Please thank God with me that I am now able to wake up at night to pray coz this is what I need to continue doing.

  2. (SOUTH AFRICA)  Praise God. The timing of this message is simply impeccable. It comes at a time I’ve been seeing cracks in my faith – that what I’ve been praying for is perhaps not in line with what God wants for me. This is inspite of my belief that God is a God of relationships and that marriage (where I’ve been experiencing problems for sometime) in particular is sacred to Him. My faith has been renewed.

  3. The following comment was sent to us concerning this week’s Marriage Message:

    The message today has expressed exactly what I have been through. The Lord has worked a miracle in my marriage and restored it. And your messages helped me to change so many things in my life and also to be patient, have faith and wait for the Lord’s work.

    It was quite a painful experience for me coz it involved unfaithfulness, but because of your messages I waited, and prayed with faith in my heart though there was no outward visible sign that the Lord was working on my marriage. When the answer came, it was so sudden and unexpected it left me amazed and awed at God’s way of doing things. May His name be praised. I am joyous and I have committed everything in my family to him coz I have learned to trust him. Thanks and may he bless you! too.

  4. (FIJI)  Praise God!! it is like God is speaking to me directly through your messages. It is so amazing and I am truly blessed for God’s guidance in my life through this site. Whenever I am looking for an answer it is right here!!!!

    I was also beginning to get disheartened of why God is allowing such unwanted circumstances in my life and why are they not going away… I had faith but I still wondered why God is not answering… Well, now I will not ask this question anymore coz I have learned of how God’s plan works for my life.

    Thanks for encouraging me through this site and thank God for showing me that he is in Control although i do not see any evidence i am now confident that God’s hand is at work in my life and that my prayers will be answered according to his will n the right time.

    May God bless you and may you bless others just like you blessed me today!! Love, RD

  5. (PHILIPPINES)  Praise God for this timely message. Currently, my husband and I are living separately because of his infidelity. We are considering divorce because he said he does not love me anymore. Marriage for him is more of a feeling than a commitment. I want to pray first for God’s direction. Betrayal is a painful experience and I live one day at a time only by His grace. Jesus is my joy.

    I have passed the depression stage by God’s help. In my own thoughts, I want divorce and I want a new husband. I am confused. God’s ways are different from my ways. I need your prayers. May God richly bless your ministry. Thank you.

  6. (USA) I too thank God that this message is right on time. I am standing alone for my marriage and standing is a daily test. One day I can visibly see and also feel God working and the next day it seems nothing is happening. Faith is trusting God is working and I have to remind myself of this each day.

    The following quote really helped me visualize what God can be doing and we may not realize it: “Although God was actively involved throughout the Creation process, in the beginning the ‘earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep’ (Genesis 1:2).‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’ (Genesis 1:2). He was personally, invisibly, actively preparing Planet Earth to receive His Word and be transformed into a place of beauty and purpose, a place that would reflect His image and bring Him pleasure.”

    I trust God is preparing a place of beauty and purpose for my marriage and that this place reflects his image and brings him pleasure. Still standing…

  7. I just found this article tonight — what an encouragement! I have been praying a very long time for my former sweetheart, who pushed me out of his life even though at one time we’d been talking about getting married. The last report I got of him was from the pastor’s wife, who described him as being “a mess.” That really grieved me. I have felt so long that he is like one whose life is formless and empty and that he lives in darkness even though he is a believer. He has seemed like the ‘surface of the deep’ — undulating, unstable, always changing, and moody, as Anne Graham Lotz says. I have seen no evidence of change, heard no positive updates about him, have no contact whatsoever with him. You bet I’ve questioned whether God even hears or cares about my prayers. This gave me reassurance that He does.