Spats Matter

Early in our marriage, Dale and I disagreed about our TV-viewing habits. Choosing what I watch has to line up with Philippians 4:8, which tells us to think—and view, in my opinion—things that are pure, noble, and right. Dale just surfed channels to find whatever looked interesting.

So we had multiple discussions about what we should let enter our hearts and minds through the media, and sometimes we didn’t agree on what was appropriate. After we struggled through several disagreements, we finally came to a common ground that works for both of us.

Most of the time, if we both feel it’s not a good show, we’ll simply change the channel or turn off the TV. On rare occasions, when I’d rather not watch the movie or TV program, I’ll find something else to do, such as read a book.

But we’ve both learned to compromise in this area. There have been times when Dale has sat through a chick-flick that I know he’s not thrilled about. Now, even though we seldom sit down to an evening of TV viewing, when we do, we rarely disagree, and our evenings together are enjoyable.

We all know that we come into a relationship with flaws and weaknesses that can cause conflict, whether it’s an annoying habit, an inconsiderate behavior, thoughtless words, or offensive actions. The reality is that the closer you are to someone, the more you risk being hurt. You know each other’s tender spots. You know what hot buttons to push.

For some people, a sensitive spot might be feeling disrespected, ignored, or unappreciated; for others, it could be feeling unloved or unsafe. If either partner touches a sensitive area, there’s bound to be conflict.

So what can you do? Whether it’s a little spat over a minor difference of opinion or a heated argument or a debate over an important subject, such as finances or sex, a disagreement should never escalate into a hostile fight that causes either partner to feel afraid, rejected, or alienated. You can win a fight and lose valuable territory in the areas of trust and respect, or you can embrace the opportunity to find greater intimacy by dealing with the inevitable conflicts that may arise.

Resolving conflict can be a scary thing, but if you fear the process, you’ll often leave a problem unresolved. Choosing to deal with issues will keep problems small and help you work toward a healthy relationship.

How do you resolve conflict well?

*Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2014, all rights reserved. Visit for more.


Susan and Dale Mathis are passionate about helping couples prepare for marriage and for remarriage, since they are a remarried couple themselves. Dale has two master's degrees in counseling and has worked in counseling and human resources for over 30 years. Susan, the founding editor of Thriving Family magazine, has written prolifically for magazines and newspapers and continues to serve as a consultant, freelance editor and writer, and speaker. As a couple they enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and visiting family and friends around the world. Their blended family includes five adult children and three granddaughters. For more information about Susan or Dale, visit their website.

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