Rule #1: Past failures are off limits during a current conflict.
In Isaiah 43:18–19, God said to rebellious Israel, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (NKJV). Although this was spoken to Israel, remember, Israel is referred to as God’s wife and the church as the bride of Christ. With that in mind, it is not a stretch at all to apply these words to the marriage relationship.
One of the reasons so many couple seem to engage in a repetitive cycle of combat is found in verse 18: they do not forget the former things but continually dredge up every one of their mate’s past failures. That, however, is in direct contradiction of what we seek for ourselves from God. As Psalm 25:6–7 emphatically reminds us, “Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O LORD.” How can we ask this of the Lord in regards to our personal shortcomings yet refuse to extend the same kind of mercy to others, especially to our mates? Isn’t this that pesky Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you”? Far too often the rule is amended to read, “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
This is a fatal flaw if it is part of your conflict resolution. You might want your spouse to really try to see your point of view, but are you really trying to see theirs? You might wish they would stop doing that thing they “always do” when a conflict arises, but have you stopped doing what they say you always do? Let your expectations dictate your actions. Do for your mate what you want from your mate, and watch how quickly you resolve conflict.
When communication breaks down into verbal combat (I am purposely using aggressive language here because for some that’s how conflict resolution seems), the very first thing you must remember is to keep past offenses in the past. Resist the temptation to use them as fuel on an already raging fire. When facing a conflict in your marriage, dragging in the past is strictly off limits. In other words, fight about what you are fighting about. The past is not an arsenal of weapons for your current battle.
Singles, beware the man or woman who continually brings up every little wrong thing you do or constantly corrects you. Remember, you’re looking for a mate, not a mentor, and this is a sign of things to come for you, should you proceed in the relationship. Let me insert a little balance here for you literal thinkers. It isn’t that we can’t learn from each other—because we can—but “each other” is the operative here. If you feel like you’re dating an instructor instead of an equal, you’d better hit the brakes for a while lest you find yourself playing the part of a lifetime student.
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.