In marriage, a lot of couples are able to work through at least a minor to moderate-level conflict without the help of a third or fourth party. 😉 In fact, there’s even advice from Scripture that says outside parties should steer clear of a conflict that is not their own! #dogbite
“Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears.” Proverbs 26:17
That verse is really more about rushing in to “meddle” in a conflict, especially when it is one that you might not all that is going on or has gone on in the past.
However, if a significant offense continues to occur because one spouse (or individual) is resistant to “listen” to the other spouse’s (or individual’s) concerns, then the Bible has something to say about that as well.
“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.’” ~Matthew 18:16
This verse (and the passage surrounding it) is often the process many churches use for “church discipline.” But Jesus’ instructions here give us a wealth of wisdom for addressing habitual or lifestyle sins of anyone and not just parishioners—even and especially addressing longstanding and/or damaging marriage conflicts.
[Tweet “How to proactively confront in longstanding and damaging marriage conflicts. #6Steps”]
Enter, stage left . . . it’s the face of grace I’ve dubbed, “Connie” (short for confrontation). Click on the link to read other posts in this series—“The Many Faces of Grace.”
Step One – Respectfully Confront Privately
Let’s say that a husband refuses to quit watching movies that have nudity and sexually explicit situations, after the wife has clearly and respectfully expressed her concerns and desire for him to stop this habit.
Ongoing and In-tandem with Step One
She’s also given him time to think about this, while she—unbeknownst to him—continues to pray for his heart to change. (Remember “Pete” for “petition”? I suppose, Pete could also stand for “rePete!”)
Step Three – Confront Again Privately
After a few weeks go by and he continues to watch these kinds of shows, she brings it up to him one more time for “good measure”—doing so with kindness and patience in her voice. But, let’s say, he still flatly refuses.
[Tweet “What should this wife do then? Give up? Not by a longshot! #confrontingrace”]
Step Four – Bring in Trusted Pastor(s)
If she and her husband are believers and have a church where they attend, this could be a great time to schedule a meeting with their pastor. If her husband won’t go with her, I would suggest she meet one time* with her pastor on her own to gain support and guidance.
Should she leave it at that and call it a day? Nope!
Step Five – Go to a trusted, Christian Counselor
I believe Matthew 18:16 could/can include pulling in the help of a good, godly counselor as well.
Problem solved? Well, certainly not if he also refuses to go with her to a counselor. So what then?
Step Six – Bring the Confrontation to Him
She could take the tack of bringing some godly, male friends of her husband’s “to him.”** These friends would need to be in agreement with her that this practice is truly hurting her marriage or this could quickly go sideways! She must have full confidence in the ability of these friends to confront her husband respectfully but firmly.
If there are no godly friends who can do this, then consider some godly men (who aren’t necessarily close friends of the husband) from your church coming instead.
And what about if all six steps end in failure? Well, . . .
Next week, I’ll be unpacking more about what to do if these steps fail, plus I’ll share what I think are the kinds of issues or conflicts to warrant such a thorough and painstaking process in marriage, and why. I hope you’ll come back by!
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What are some other longstanding and damaging offenses that should be confronted in this way in marriage?
Why do you think this serious-minded approach is necessary for a couple, or do you?
*Since this woman would be in a vulnerable point in her life, she should not make meeting with her compassionate pastor an ongoing effort. Any wise pastor should also know this, but just in case he doesn’t . . . I’m saying it!
**Also, another alternative to having your husband’s godly, male friends come and confront your spouse, is to have a godly couple that both of you like and trust to come instead. Some churches even train mentor couples just for this purpose. You might want to check to see if that’s something your church provides.
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