One of the things I have observed about my parents’ marriage and eventual divorce is the fact that they rarely argued in front of my sister and me. I used to think this was something admirable about their relationship until I realized it seriously stunted my ability to address conflict within my own relationships. I was never shown how to argue in a healthy way. Growing up in a household where issues were swept under the rug and never addressed only taught me how to avoid conflict.
Is my Marriage Doomed?
One of the hardest adjustments in my own marriage was realizing that we would bring up issues—and sometimes the same issues—over and over again. Every time we would start having an argument, my anxiety would fly through the roof. I would hope that we could give each other space to cool off and then, later, pretend it never happened. Of course, with this method we were never going to actually resolve anything.
I would wonder, “Is this always going to be a problem? What’s the point of trying if we’re going to fight about it again in a few months?”
When my husband and I would sit down to talk things out, I thought my marriage was doomed to the same fate as my parents’. Ironically, it was doing the exact opposite. Having these arguments was forcing us to actually address the issues before they became irreparable.
Fighting for Our Marriage
I would have these unexpected experiences where I felt deeper closeness and more love for my husband after our fights. I realized it was because he wasn’t fighting to win an argument. He was fighting for me and for our marriage, especially when I felt tempted to just give up. I realized how vulnerable I could be. He would be exposed to some of my ugliest thoughts and actions... and he would still love me.
The more we argued, the more we began to understand each other. We communicated better, we learned what triggers us, and even began to anticipate what the other person needs and what love languages to speak. This, ultimately, would lead us to feeling greater love and intimacy with one another.
What I have come to accept is that we are human, we make mistakes, and we are creatures of habit (sometimes, not so great habits). We come into marriage as complex individuals with unresolved issues and wounds that have yet to heal, and suddenly, we're trying to figure out how to bring all those things together harmoniously. It is not easy! And that’s ok. We weren’t made for just the “easy.” We were made for greatness, and greatness takes work.
Jesus is My Bridegroom
This led me to evaluate my relationship with the Lord. How do I go “deeper” in my relationship with Him? The idea of it actually made me quite nervous because I used to think that the “deeper” you go, the more likely you are to make mistakes. I wanted a perfect relationship that always felt nice. And that meant that I would keep Him at arms length.
In a twisted way, I thought that if I avoided acknowledging the sin in my life, I could avoid disappointing Him. But much like marriage, Jesus doesn’t want an “easy” relationship with us. He wants all of us. And Jesus is ultimately our Spouse, is He not? He is the Bridegroom and we are His bride.
No more shall men call you “Forsaken,” or you land “Desolate,” But you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you. // Isaiah 62:4-5
How Confession Saved My Marriage
Like with any marriage, there will be moments of conflict within our relationships with God. There are highs and lows. And Jesus is ok with that. God doesn’t want us to hate ourselves or to fall into despair. He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in us. He sees it all... and He still loves us. There's no greater vulnerability and intimacy than that. But just like we need to do the work in marriage, we need to do the work of repenting and repairing our relationship with Him.
The more I would run to Jesus in Confession and do an honest Examination of Conscience, the easier it was for me to own up to my mistakes and say, “I’m sorry,” to my husband.
The more I received the graces of His mercy, the easier it was for me to say, “I forgive you.”
We are all called to imitate Jesus; we are all called to holiness. When we struggled in our marriage and had to learn to stretch ourselves in order to grow in that holiness, we were reminded of how Jesus stretched His arms on the Cross in order to receive us fully and totally.
Conflict is an Opportunity
This changed my whole perspective on conflict. It was no longer something I needed to be afraid of. I began to view each conflict or sin in my life as an invitation. It is an opportunity to grow. Repentance and Confession is our chance to be vulnerable and honest with Him. And with our Bridegroom’s forgiveness, we grow in deeper intimacy and relationship with Him.
These are important and valuable lessons that I hope to teach my children. My husband and I have gotten better at addressing conflict over the years. It still takes work to prevent our egos from getting in the way and letting it turn into heated arguments, but we are still learning and growing every day. Better yet, we are able to model for our children what it means to work things out in marriage, friendships, familial relationships, and most importantly, in our relationship with God.
Have you been fearful of conflict in the past? Are you afraid of it now? Why do you think that is? How might the Lord be inviting you into greater intimacy with Him through your messiness and complication?