An interesting Huffington Post article about New Year’s resolutions got me thinking. I rarely make New Year’s resolutions because, like so many others, I find that resolutions made on any day of the year without serious follow-up are doomed to fail.
I have been thinking, though, about another type of resolution – as in, the resolution to disputes. Specifically marriage disputes.
Like all marriages, we’ve had our share of disagreements and also reconciliations.
What has always comforted me, though, is the commitment we’ve made not to bring our divisions “outside” the marriage unit unless we’ve first discussed it together.
For example, say in the course of a public conversation I say something that strikes my husband as flippant or even a little thoughtless. He won’t point it out to me in front of anyone else there, but he’ll take me aside afterward and explain his concerns.
I haven’t always appreciated what an incredible strengthener this is to our marriage until recently. We remain accountable to each other for our shortcomings, but we’re also secure in the knowledge that the other person is not out to get us. To the best of our abilities, we safeguard each other’s dignity in the middle of a disagreement or dispute.
Although this passage from Matthew 18 is not addressing married couples per se, I still wonder whether it holds particular relevance for us:
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
So obviously this is a passage for the church as a whole, not for a married couple. And I’d find it problematic to extend the “treat them as a pagan or tax collector” guideline to your spouse if he or she fails to listen to you. (Perhaps you should look into marriage counseling instead.)
But I still think there is something powerful in telling someone their faults privately. It takes courage, of course. You’ll need a lot of discretion, respect and love. And you’ll also need to avoid the temptation to vent your frustrations to someone else, even someone you trust to keep it confidential.
I know this is a touchy subject, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re comfortable sharing. What has/hasn’t worked for you when dealing with conflict? It doesn’t have to be marriage-related, but experience from any sort of interpersonal dispute.
And may 2012 be a year of resolutions for you – not the I-wish-this-would-happen type, but the I-commit-to-resolve-problems type.