Back in the early 1980s, my wife, Teresa, and I were in Oklahoma City where I had been invited to conduct a wedding ceremony. The morning after the wedding, I went out for a jog. It was hot and humid, and by the time I finished my run, my t-shirt was soaked with sweat. I came back into our motel room, stripped off my t-shirt, and threw it in a nearby paper bag—which is obviously where I thought such a garment ought to go. My wife reacted instantly without thinking.

She whopped me with her hand on across the middle of my back and said, “Don’t do that!” Bam! I was stunned by her reaction and just as quickly turned and said sharply, “Cut that out!” My harsh words caused tears to well up in her eyes immediately. I felt wronged, and she felt wronged by being yelled at. I didn’t know that she had put a new dress that she was sewing into that paper bag, and she didn’t know that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

And there we were, just hours after my performing a ceremony of holy matrimony, getting into our car and driving toward Texarkana in angry silence. We drove five hours without a word between us, and then neither of us could stand the silence any longer. We began to communicate about what had really happened and why each had felt wronged. By the time we finally arrived at our destination, we had forgiven each other and were ready to kiss and make up.

All couples fight. Good couples fight clean. Bad couples fight dirty.

Good marital conflict leads to resolution and greater closeness. Bad marital conflict presses for victory, which leads to alienation and the potential for revenge.

Stayed tuned over the next several weeks as we discuss conflict and how to resolve it within your relationship

My Question For You:

What kind of conflict do you have in your relationship? Do you fight clean or dirty?

My Challenge For You:

The next time conflict arises in your relationship, think about whether you are pressing for a victory or for resolution.