The Six Stages of Conflict

Stage One: Both Parties Feel Harmed

If a conflict arises but only one party feels wronged, an argument is not likely to occur. But when both parties feel they have been wronged, a conflict occurs. Song 5:2-6 describes a situation in which Solomon returns home late from work to find his wife has already gone to bed. He wants to lay with her and discuss his day with her but, in her opinion, if he were so anxious to spend time with her, he would've gotten himself home at a decent hour! Solomon's wife rebuffed him and both parties felt wronged. This is the stage at which conflict can be most easily resolved. All it takes is one mate deciding they will not react as their mate reacted. You can respond with the love and patience of the Spirit of God rather than the revengeful and impatient spirit of man.

Stage Two: A Change of Heart

When conflict arises, if a resolution is to take place, someone must experience a change of heart. In Song 5:6-8, Solomon's wife quickly sees her mistake and immediately goes in search of Solomon. When she went out into the street to look for him, even the watchmen would not help her in her search. Instead, they struck and wounded her and shamed her by taking away her veil. How was her heart changed once she realized she had made a mistake? God changed it. Not Solomon. If your spouse wrongs you, give God some time to work in your mate's heart. When fearful she might lose her husband, Solomon's wife began to dwell on all the wonderful things about him. In return, she saw Solomon as God saw him. When that happened, she felt a desire for renewed intimacy and closeness of communication.

Stage Three: Reaching Out to Make Amends

Once Solomon's wife realized her mistake and went to look for Solomon, her whole perception changed. Instead of her perceiving that everyone she came into contact with was "out to get her" and hinder her in her search for Solomon, people were volunteering to help her. Her conscience was clear as she searched for Solomon to restore their relationship. And she knew exactly where to find Solomon. Why? Because he had an unchanging character. He was not one person one day and another person the next. He was consistent. Solomon's bride was reaching out to him with love and appreciation. She was prepared to make whatever amends were necessary to maintain their relationship.

Stage Four: Communication

Most marital conflict stems from one of five sources: a failure to communicate, financial difficulty, sexual difficulty, problems with in-laws or disagreements about child rearing. And there is a reason that failure to communicate is listed first on the list. Let me share with you sixteen "nevers" that I believe are integral for good communication between spouses when conflict occurs.

1. Never speak rashly
2. Never confront your mate publicly.
3. Never confront your spouse in your children's presence.
4. Never use your children in the conflict.
5. Never say "never" or "always".
6. Never resort to name-calling.
7. Never get historical.
8. Never stomp out of the room or leave.
9. Never raise your voice in anger.
10. Never bring family members into the discussion unless they are a direct part of the problem being addressed.
11. Never win through reasoning or logic and never out-argue.
12. Never be condescending.
13. Never demean.
14. Never accuse your spouse with "you" statements.
15. Never allow an argument to begin if both of you are overly tired, if one of you is under the influence of chemicals or if one of you is physically ill.
16. Never touch your spouse in a harmful manner.


Stage Five: Forgiveness

As soon as Solomon's bride found him, there was communication. When his bride came to apologize to him, Solomon could have done two things. He could have stood in silence while his bride apologized or he could have lashed out at her before she could say anything, telling her what she had done wrong. Which did he do? Neither. Instead, Solomon greeted his wife with genuine compliments, telling her how beautiful she was and calling her his "delight". He forgave her even before she had a chance to ask for forgiveness.

Stage Six: Greater Closeness and Joy

There is some truth to the statement "fighting is bad, but making up makes it all worth it". Song 6:13 says

Return, return, O Shulamite; Return, return, that we may look upon you! What would you see in the Shulamite - As it were, the dance of the two camps?

"Shulamite" was a nickname for the bride. It is derived from the Hebrew for Solomon, Shlomo. Calling the bride the Shulamite implies that they were close - so close they couldn't be separated. She was part of him. The "dance of two camps" depicts the intimacy and joy in the aftermath of conflict experienced by Solomon and his bride. They rejoiced as if they were having a private party, a dance.

© Todd Tyszka
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