Conflict in marriage can be difficult to resolve without either spouse walking away hurt. Through the vulnerable lens of their own struggles and mistakes, D.A. & Elicia Horton bring a powerful and original approach to resolving conflict. In this video, you will hear about the ups and downs of their marriage, the practical ways to resolve issues, and the hope that God will provide what you need to have a vibrant and thriving marriage.
The video is above, and the full transcript is below.
The idea again, in marriage, is to develop a strong sense of spiritual maturity that both of you, in your walk with Christ are growing – not only individually in your walk with the Lord, but together.
1. NEVER FIGHT BACK
And I think that kind of leads to the first “never”. And the first “never” is never fight back.
Even if you’re not the one that initiates the jab, the verbal throw, or if somebody throws the pot or whatever. Don’t throw something back. You have to learn that, “Hey, I don’t want to fight back in this situation.”
And I’ll never forget the time where Elicia just called like a football analogy. She threw a flag on the play. And she was like, “You know what? I’m throwing a flag. Time out. Like, one of us has to be mature.” And I’m like, “Good. Cuz it ain’t going to be me.” And I proceeded to continued to kind of dive in and dig in a little bit more. And that’s where Elicia just sat there and she just looked at me. And I just was feeling more like a jerk because I’m like, “She’s not fighting back. Why aren’t you fighting back?” Now, I’m mad that she’s not fighting back. And then I just began to realize, like, “Wow.” I wasn’t listening to the Lord. But it was the silence of my wife in that moment that God used to break my heart.
So that’s why we want to challenge you to just remember that: Never fight back. It puts the burden of maturity on the individual that wants to instigate the fight or the argument.
And one of the things to remember that I wanted just to add on there is when you fight fire, you can’t fight fire with fire. In order for somebody to remain calm in those matters, you gotta just literally stop and ask God to help you in those moments.
Several times when we’ve gotten into those situations, I’m like, “You know what? I think the best thing for me to do is just be quiet right now.” And as much as I wanted to say something because it was just really irking me to just get it out, the Holy Spirit shut my mouth literally. And I could not say anything because I knew that fighting fire with fire was going to get us nowhere.
2. NEVER AVOID THE ISSUE AT HAND
The second thing we want to express is never avoid the issue at hand.
You know, we keep talking about it and we’re going to keep hammering it because it is important. We cannot avoid the issue at hand, but we can say, “You know what? We’re not getting anywhere in this moment. We are kind of in the midst of our flesh so, how about we table this? But we’re going to come back to this, you know, at a later time when we have calmed down, when we’ve gathered our bearings, when we act like we do love Jesus, and be able to talk to each other as adults versus immaturely as children.”
That’s something that we’ve kind of had to do regularly. Where we realize, wow, like, we’re not walking away, but we’re taking the time to just be like, “Yo, nothing good is coming from this so let’s just take the time to table it.” Whether or not we go to our separate corners and, write it down or jot some thoughts down of what we want to be able to think through and talk through the next time we come and talk about this. But it really just helps us to just be calm and collect and think through what are the issues that we want to talk through when we are able to communicate those things.
When you’re dealing with conflict in the midst of busyness of life, let’s just be honest. For some of us who have kids, they interrupt the conversation, they interrupt the dialogue on a consistent basis. You’ve got text messages coming in. If you’re at work and you’re texting each other and there’s tension, and you’re trying to call each other and one of you is on deadline. There’s so many different nuances and there’s not always the right space and time to resolve the conflict.
We’ve had to recognize that it’s okay to have that space in those moments, but we do eventually have to return to it. So we’re not avoiding the issue by saying, “I can’t talk about it right now.” Because there’s even times when we’re barraged with different things.
This happened to us two days ago. Elicia knew that I was frustrated, she knew I was irritated. I had all kind of things coming at me at once. And she sitting there saying, “Well I want to talk about this.” And I was like, “Listen. I love you, but I can’t talk about that right now. I need to focus on this. I’m not there and you’re going to get the worst of me in this moment.”
But it’s taken me fifteen years to feel the freedom to express that to Elicia in that moment. And she didn’t take offense. She knew I had all these pressures on me. She needed some things cleared up for her, and she was like, “Okay, then when you’re in a better space, in a better mind, and have a better heart, and you can focus on the issue, then we can come back to it.”
3. NEVER ACT LIKE YOU DON’T CARE
Because then that leads into the third thing, is that you never want to act like you don’t care. Again, never act like you don’t care.
In that moment, when I told Elicia, “I can’t talk about this right now.” She didn’t interpret that as, “Oh, he doesn’t care and I’m going to make him care about this issue.” She didn’t force it. She recognized, he cares, but his attention is divided in six different ways right now. So what I can do is say, “Okay, you get those things worked out and when you have less on your plate, then we can come back together and we can put our full attention towards this matter that we need to resolve as quickly as possible.”
It just took us time to learn, that that is not acting like I don’t care. That is me saying, “I’m just too spread thin and I don’t have the bandwidth to give the attention to the topic at hand that really deserves my full attention.”
I think one of the things that we’ve done well in that vein is the fact that we’ve asked each other the question, “Hey, do you just need some time to process? If you do, it’s okay, sweetheart. Like, I’m going to let you just go and just be by yourself.” And we’ve kind of been able to give that to each other. And that’s been very helpful.
4. NEVER USE MANIPULATION TO
The last one is never use manipulation to get your way.
And that’s all of us. We have been guilty of that quite a few times when we’re trying to get the other person to talk and we will do something that we know will manipulate the situation. It only makes it worse.
And, and here’s a real example. Like, if I’m trying to communicate a concern that I have to Elicia and she would just say, “You know what, I just I’m not there right now. I can’t talk about it.” I would say something like this, “See, you don’t care about me. You don’t make time for me. You make time for everybody else except for me.” And in that moment, what I’m doing is I’m using manipulative language to make her say, “Okay, then I need to engage with you.” And I’m saying that, “Hey, you’re failing me in this area and I can’t do anything until we address your failure.” And that was wrong. I was wrong for doing that, because she wasn’t in the right space or state of mind to engage with that. So I had to learn to fall back on using some of those manipulation tactics in the midst of conflict to get my own way.
I think another one that I typically would do is, I would give the quick, “I’m sorry” band-aid approach. I would hurt her feelings. I would do something out of pure neglect. It wasn’t on purpose. She would say, “This is how you hurt me.” “You know what? I’m sorry. Alright, let’s go get some Chinese food.” And she’d be like, “Wait a minute. Like, I’m still bleeding here.” And I’m like, “I said I’m sorry. Like, what else do you want from me?” And that would lead to another three hour fight.
We had to learn that, I had to say, “I’m sorry is not going to take away her frustration. I’m sorry does not remove the tension.” I’m sorry is simply a passive-aggressive way for acknowledging that I may or may have done something, but I’m just going to use this superficial, band-aid statement to ambiguously wiggle my way out of this tension because I don’t like how it makes me feel. And that’s where I had to learn to hear her heart, allow her to express her pain, and then I had to recognize, okay, if some of these things were just done out of neglect, that I was just not on my A-game mentally or if I did something maliciously, I said something to hurt you, I threw a jab at you on purpose, I said a joke, but low-key I was just too passive-aggressive to say what I really meant, then I would need to take ownership and say, “You know what? I confess to you.” Rather than saying, “I’m sorry.” I confess to you my wrong error of doing this. Or I sinned because I lied to you when this happened and I was wrong for it and I own up to those consequences and I ask for your forgiveness. So I can be released from this debt of a sinful charge that I committed against you, my wife.
That’s good. The last thing I want to add, just before we conclude this, is acknowledging is so important. Acknowledge the ways that you have hurt your spouse. Acknowledge the ways that it hasn’t been helpful when you have come into disagreements. Because, when you’re in denial of it and pride is just covering your eyes and you cannot see your own sinfulness, it only hurts your spouse, your loved-one. And we want to help you to engage in ways that is not going to be hurtful anymore. And that you can practice these ways to really deal with it in a loving way.
And the last thing, before we ask the final question, is you’ve gotta understand that when these issues are not resolved, we’re giving room for the evil one to, basically, drift us apart and pick us apart. Because if we find comfort in expressing these things to someone else that’s going to listen outside of our spouse, then now there’s emotional things that get connected there, whether it’s someone of the same gender or someone of the opposite gender. The reality is is that the evil one wants to massage your heart to say, “See, your spouse doesn’t listen. They ain’t got time. They don’t acknowledge they’re wrong. This person is better for you. This is who God wants for you.” And he can just confuse things in the midst of those moments.
So this is the final question we want to leave you with: Which of these four “nevers” have you already begun to incorporate in your method for conflict resolution in your marriage? Which ones do you see work well? And then, which of these four are you not practicing so that you can then develop ways, through conversation with each other, on how you can begin to implement these four “nevers” to see conflicts resolved and onesness and togetherness that is producing more closeness for you, as husband and wife, together. How can that be accomplished by practicing these four “nevers”?
D.A. and Elicia Horton are coaches for Woo Marriage—a digital tool that provides Christ-centered marriage coaching for churches. This video is included in their 6-session course on conflict resolution. To learn more, visit WooMarriage.com.