Matthew 18:15-17 model of marriage resolutions?

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.

About multiculturalmarriage

I'm glad to be part of a multicultural marriage! I grew up in the U.S. but am married to an African husband. This makes life challenging, creative and cool - all at the same time!
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8 Responses to Matthew 18:15-17 model of marriage resolutions?

  1. This is a so needed article for the whole world to see! Keep writing blogs around this topic as I have clients who are in multicultural marriages and struggling to keep them. Please visit my blog and look around. I look forward to seeing you.

    Cynthia Davis

  2. I think it is just much more respectful to deal with personal differences one-on-one and privately. In a classroom setting, I find that when I have something I need to discuss with my students it ALWAYS goes much better if we discuss it in private. They feel publicly humiliated if a teacher or principal says something negative in front of their peers. My husband and I also try to discuss our issues privately, but it gets difficult due to the children! Sometimes our serious discussions are neglected. We have to work hard to not let negativity fester. Great post!

    • That’s a great point, Jen – applying this principle to the teacher-student relationship, too. I’d never thought of that!

      I also appreciate how hard it must be to talk one-on-one with little ones around. We don’t have children yet, so you have a perspective on this that is most helpful. 😉

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. Anon E Mouse says:

    Wonderful principle indeed, given by the One who knows best.
    As you say, it takes a lot of courage to make the first move.
    The reconciliation conversation also should take place when both parties can discuss the issue without the heat of emotion, so it usually requires a little timeout first during which rational thoughts can be carefully and prayerfully prepared. Good for kids also…
    God bless you both!!

  4. Jeremy ng says:

    Bob Sorge’s new book “stuck” teaches on
    Exactly the same passage to apply to troubled marriage.

    Really good read.

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