How to Get Unstuck in a Sticky Conflict in Marriage

Stuck in Conflict? Then come MM to learn how to get unstuck in any conflicts you're having with your spouse in marriage. #marriage #spouse #conflict #Bible #verses #anger #angry #conversation #communication #listening #prayer #process #perspective

If you’re like me, you’ve let your mouth fly wide open in times of conflict with your mate (or others), only to reveal the manipulative and prideful intentions behind your words. 

For me, these sticky situations erupt when I had the best of intentions, really. Ironically, I think my words will bring clarity and understanding to my spouse (cue the sound of angels singing from heaven).

However, all I’m really offering my mate is a sticky web intended to capture him in his own words. 

And once my anger and pride settle back down, I can see just what a tangled mess I’ve made. A mess that’s binding both myself and my spouse to the worst side of ourselves. 

Ironically, I choose to go this route out of a desire to be “Christlike”—pointing my spouse to God and His word. #Biblethumper 

Or, more accurately, pointing him to my version of it! 😉

But all I really end up doing is condemning him instead of inspiring him. #marriagefail

Sadly, I’ve found myself in this sticky situation far more often than a Christian counselor and pastor’s wife should! I really should know better! 

Thankfully, the overabundance of messes that I’ve made over the years—decades, really—also gives me greater insight into how to get unstuck when the web entangles my heart and marriage. I hope you’ll allow me to share some tips I’ve learned that you might want to apply in your life. 

6 Steps for Getting Unstuck in a Marriage Conflict

1. Ask for a “Time-Out” 

When I feel my emotions overwhelming me, I respectfully tell my husband that I’m feeling too emotional to talk further and need to pull away to process and pray before we talk again. My husband has seen how this has helped me.

But I must say it to him in a way that clearly indicates I will return to the subject at hand once my heart is ready. 

Scientists have now confirmed through research that when we feel angry the Amygdala in our brains gets “hijacked” for at least 18 minutes. This actually drops our IQ by about 15 points during that timeframe, making rationality and diplomacy very elusive. 

Not only that but . . .

2. Surrender the Burden of Your Angry Feelings to God

I recently studied select psalms of David in my own quiet time and am currently offering this study in a private FB group. You can ask to join here. 

And I remember how well one of David’s psalms captured the raw emotion he poured out to the Lord. 

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.  —Psalm 142:3-4

Talk about “real and raw!” 😉

When your emotions are in turmoil, you will struggle to see how you’re acting or what the truth of your situation is. For me, when I’m feeling anxious and angry, no matter how I try to say something, it usually comes across as harsh and even hateful to my spouse.

When you and I come to God like David—open and vulnerable—we not only unburden ourselves, but we also get to see things from God’s perspective. 

When we do this, we can also be more open and gracious with our spouses—breaking down the barrier that the conflict erected. Just don’t let this time of prayer processing go for too long. You don’t want your spouse to feel like you’re sweeping the issue under the rug. 

3. Agree on a Time to Talk Again

Soon after I’ve prayed and found perspective and peace, I ask my husband if we can schedule a time to talk.

But if your time of prayer processing gets bogged down for more than a day or two, reach out to schedule this whether you’re finished or not. Giving yourself a deadline will keep you from delaying a conversation that will likely be hard but is so very necessary. 

4. When you Have the Talk, Focus on Your Negative Contribution First

After choosing an optimum time and distraction-free place, come to this conversation with humility—focusing on what you did to hurt your spouse and worsen the conflict. 

This is HUGE for getting unstuck and keeping you unstuck! 

If I try to talk to my husband in a way that communicates that he is the main problem or the problem I want to address first, the conversation will go from smooth back to stickier than ever in no time. 

5. Make Listening Your Paramount Concern and Focus

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  —James 1:19 (emphasis mine).

You need to remind yourself that you cannot know all that your mate sees or feels without really listening to him/her first before forming your opinion.

When you don’t listen well at the outset, it’s what I call “premature interpretation” and always leads to frustration for both parties! 😉

Also, make sure not to form a rebuttal, even if the rebuttal is only in your head! Take it captive (2 Cor. 10:5) as soon as it surfaces!

Be humble enough to “sit” with your mate’s words for minutes, hours—even days. And during the conversation, repeat the wording as closely as possible to your spouse to confirm that you heard him/her right before proceeding.

When you do this, it will allow you to hear yourself. The person you’re probably more open to at this time of conflict! 😉

Doing this will give you a new pathway for thinking about your spouse’s words, as well as giving you the ability to feel how your spouse is feeling. 

6. Commit to Contemplating Your Spouse’s Disclosures “Until”  

Contemplating means doing more prayer processing days later about what your spouse shared during the conversation.

Ask God to open your eyes to see and heart to feel what your spouse has been feeling. Then ask God to use your spouse’s words to reveal the truth about “you” and how you need to change. 

Pray about this until you begin to practice the new attitudes and behaviors God has brought to your attention. Then come back here and tell me if this has helped get you unstuck and feeling closer to your spouse!

I truly want to hear from you! 

What is your biggest challenge when a “sticky conflict” arises with your mate?


How do you think your mate would respond if you did these steps the next time you get stuck?

25 responses to “How to Get Unstuck in a Sticky Conflict in Marriage”

  1. Happy New Year, dear friend. I’m sure you’re enjoying your last days of break from all this online madness … I hope that your Advent season has prepared you well for the adventure that this coming year is sure to bring.

    Thanks for sharing wisdom week in and out, and for modeling for us what marriage can be. Blessings to you and Gary …


  2. Headed over to read the rest now :). I can relate to the tangled web and trying to trip my hubby up in his own words :/


  3. I love the vulnerability of owning those impure motives and coming clean with the ways we are at fault. Thanks for all the ways you encourage boldness in our marriages.


    1. Thank you so much, Michele! I love that part of what God has been doing in my heart over the years and love that it might spill over into the way couples resolve conflicts too–with humility, confession and prayer! I appreciate your kind words and friendship!


  4. Thank you Beth, for your great insights, reminders, and encouragement. I’m not quite ready to date again, okay I’m terrified to. To many scars, I’m sure Jesus will let me know when it’s time and with who. I long to have a Christian relationship with someone who loves God first. But for now, I’m utilizing my time to draw nearer to God, that’s more important to me. I enjoy reading dating and marriage articles from fellow Christian bloggers, there is always something to be learned. Blessings.
    Visiting From Inspire Me Monday #5


    1. I think that’s a very wise move, Paula! It’s the very best way to reenter the dating world. Thanks for coming by, joining the conversation. Hope to see you back here again!


  5. Such wisdom here, Beth! I’m happy to say that with God’s help, I’m improving in this area. Thanks for sharing the brain research too – it’s so important to take a break and re-engage when we are calmed down. Pinning and tweeting!


    1. I bet you are, Sarah. You have really worked hard to improve your marriage, as has your husband. I’m so glad God is strengthening your connection in marriage. It always makes everything so much easier when the homefront is peaceful! I appreciate you stopping by to join the conversation!


  6. Amanda Lewallen Avatar

    These are such great relationship tips! Thank you for sharing!


    1. Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, Amanda!


  7. Really excellent and right on point with the best ways to deal with conflict!♥️


    1. Thank you, Pam. I take that as high praise coming from you, my friend! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me!


  8. Our marriage had some sticky issues
    that haunted life and marriage bed,
    but cue the sad songs, pass the tissues,
    they’s gone ’cause I will soon be dead,
    and somehow they don’t matter much
    in the pain of cancer’s now,
    no-one feels the need to touch
    the rawest nerve, or have a cow
    about the things that seemed so vital
    back when we walked in the sun,
    but now that things have gotten frightful
    I find we’re having lots mure fun
    and giving best that we can give
    in just living, and let live.


    1. I’m sure your health ordeal has really put things into perspective in a way that few of us will ever know, Andrew. Praying for you and always grateful to see you here in my space!


  9. Here I am again!

    I’m struck by –> ‘condemning him instead of inspiring him.’ Kind of hit me in the head.

    An inspiration. To my husband.

    I’m taking this with me, Beth …


    1. Ha! Yes, we sure do go way back, don’t we, Linda?! I’m sure that’s something you know as a counselor, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded as regular old spouses! 😉 Love ya!


  10. These are great steps to resolving conflict. I have trouble coming across the wrong way to my husband. What I need to say always comes off wrong.


    1. I hope you’ll try some or all of these tips the next time your hubby tells you you’re coming across in a negative way. I bet you’ll find it really transforms your feelings and thereby your attitudes and actions toward him, Amy! Thanks for stopping by and being so open and honest!


  11. Very good practical tips – thank you, I will pin this for future reference! 🙂


  12. Wonderful post, Beth. This should be required reading before couples are allowed to marry! It is so interesting that the amygdala sends us messages for 18 minutes that actually lower our IQ. No wonder we often feel so dumb after a fight (or is that just me?) Thank you for sharing the wisdom that you have gathered over decades of a successful marriage. We do eventually learn, don’t we?


  13. Great post! I tend to get stuck when I feel right which unfortunately is often in a conflict!! But taking time out helps me listen to the Holy Spirit and gain some humility! Thanks for all of your tips.


  14. Thank you for this fabulous post, Beth! I so appreciate the advice you gave here, especially about the listening to your spouse, I’m afraid I’m often too busy getting my point across or trying to be “heard”. Wonderful wisdom here!


  15. Lots of great wisdom and sound advice your shared here! Really great post, Beth! Thank you for sharing!


  16. I started to read this two days ago and got distracted—what a mistake. I needed your words yesterday. Now to unravel my part. I was so angry, and it got the best of me. Thank you for your wisdom. It was nice to know I am not alone. The one good thing I did was step away and take a break. Maree


  17. Beth,

    I battled with getting upset for a better part of my marriage until I trusted God to give me a vision or metaphor that worked. I’ve shared this on a couple of other marriage blogs.

    I believe most of us can instinctively see the danger when we run a red light, so we have the ability to step on the brakes when the light turns yellow before our car gets into a collision and someone gets severely injured

    We should be placing more value in our spouses (and people in general) than we do our own car.

    When my spouse and I realized there is danger of emotionally hurting one another, when saying something insulting or raising our voices we were able to immediately and instinctively step on the emotional brakes. This created an opportunity to discover in thought provoking discussion. We began to stimulate one another’s mind. (Emotionally Connect)

    I challenge anyone reading this, to have a chat with your spouse to give each other the green light to say “we agreed not to do this” when frustration flares up. This can prevent tempers flaring up or saying something hurtful happens.

    This may work when a marriage is in trouble, to at least be more rational in the way they communicate with one another.

    I wasn’t mentored by parents than practiced good communication skills and I questioned if they even loved one another.

    If you don’t see danger when things get testy or understand the emotional damage one is doing to the other, then in essence we are treating our car better than we are treating our spouse.

    See the danger!


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