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Titus 2:3-5 says let the older women teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children. This is part 1 of 5 in a series on Learning to Love Your Husband– from a woman who has had some lessons to learn.

One of the things typically discussed in Christian premarital counseling is understanding how your own family dealt with conflict whilst growing up. Some families or parents are confrontational in conflict, some are argumentative, some ignore or avoid conflict altogether, and some use the silent treatment. I was familiar with the latter. My husband was very comfortable with the hashing-it-out, confrontational method. 

When our marriage was new and young, we quickly discovered this usually looked like me withdrawing into the silent treatment at the first sign of conflict, hurt feelings, or unmet expectations and for him to bring us to the eventual hashing-it-out anyways.

When conflict arose in the early years of our marriage (and beyond) my husband, suspecting something was amiss, would ask me the dreaded question–the one I would try to avoid. “What’s wrong?” Because I enjoyed nursing my wounds silently, I surely did not want to stop being resentful toward him by actually divulging that something was wrong. 

So instead I almost always answered “Nothing.”

As you may imagine this stahl would buy a little more time for me to milk my grudge before I had to fess up and communicate honestly. In the meantime, my husband might conclude that I was just being quieter than usual, heavy in thought, or tired. I would often carry on like this for days.  But eventually my distance was met with the same question, “What’s wrong??” to which I would try to reply “Nothing”. By this time though it would be apparent something was indeed wrong and I could not keep up the charade as well as I thought. Instead of continuing to inflict punishment by distance and withdrawal, we would eventually proceed to have a terse discussion (a fight) about what was actually wrong. 

We always aimed to patch things up and forgive at the end. But looking back at these events in our early marriage, I am exhausted just thinking about it. What should have been conflict resolution wasted away into days of stalemate, passive aggression.


The “Nothing” Lie

So what’s wrong with that you may ask?
Well unless you enjoy driving long-standing wedges between you and your spouse, I can attest that this mode of conflict resolution does not help draw the relationship closer together. Instead it becomes fixed on disappointment and cultivates a critical spirit well beyond that one conflict. Though there may finally be communication after days (or longer) have passed, it wastes precious time and is just incredibly unsatisfactory.

At some point well into our married years, I realized that I was not doing my marriage any good by nursing wounds and grudges. It occurred to me that I was actually being a liar in my marriage. He would ask me what was wrong. I would always lead with “Nothing”, and hold up that defense to “avoid a fight”. In reality I was prolonging the fight by lying and claiming no thing was bothering me, and therefore not addressing what really was.

As the Holy Spirit revealed my own sins and avoidance, I realized I needed to take a big step and break up with “Nothing”. I remember the moment clearly. As I sat in my front room; it dawned on me that I needed to quit saying “Nothing”. I resolved that I would not use that answer any more and that instead I would be truthful rather than being a liar. I would tell my husband what was bothering me the first time he asked “what’s wrong?” and therefore short circuit the drama I was so accustomed to maintaining.

The first time I practiced my new resolve was in our van on the way home from church.
At this point in our marriage, my husband could read my bad mood in a moment. As the question “what’s wrong?” came up, I simply told him. I think it created a disagreement instantly, but I noticed something: I didn’t need to carry resentment around for days before speaking. It brought the issue to a head. And though we had a disagreement, we reconciled quicker than we had before.

I tried different approaches. I can recall times when he would ask “what’s wrong?” in the van full of kids. In keeping my resolve, I would still answer immediately. But instead of speaking about details I would say, “can we talk about this at home when we are alone? I don’t want to argue in front of the kids.” This didn’t always work as he sometimes pressed for more information. But it was a way I could still answer with integrity but defer the conflict till later in a healthier way.

As I began to practice this skill, I realized there were times I did not want to tell him what was wrong with me because it was a superficial bother. I realized I may have been overly sensitive or in my own mental tizzy, which was not his to carry. I began to weigh my motives more and ask myself if it was worth a discussion. If not, then I needed to address something in my own heart/mind and not speak of it. If so, then I would speak of it.

I recall learning to discern my own heart better. I might have answered: “I am struggling with my own insecurity about… or I think it is something I need to work out on my end. I am not mad at you.” This allowed me to go to God in prayer and be honest about what was in my own heart too. In addition to that it helped him understand me better as we sometimes talked it through.


Seeking Resolution

Maybe you are reading this post and thinking, wow, they must have fought alot! Relative to some marriages, I suppose that was true. But I suspect other wives out there may be silently punishing their husbands like I once did, so I think it is worth sharing my weakness and how God helped me overcome through prayer and obedience to His word.

If you struggle similarly, I hope you can take a cue from this older woman and learn to break up with Nothing too. Don’t be a liar. Be honest and begin to communicate what is in your heart and in your mind. Conflict resolution is a learned behavior. You once learned how to handle conflict from the home you grew up in. You can, by God’s grace, relearn it if need be. 

I am pointing out the error of one form of conflict resolution today: passive aggression. But you may approach conflict with other forms of sin: anger, escapism, retaliation. There are many ways to sin in conflict. But the goal is resolution. How will you resolve to function differently and actually grow in communication and intimacy with your husband rather than create ruts of hurt and bad habits which drive you further apart?

Resolve to turn to God when you are prone to turn to sin to cope. Search out scriptures specific to your own temptation. Ask God to help you obey Him with no excuses when conflict arises. And then watch what God does. I am guessing you will be amazed! I have been.

With love,