Conflict Resolution...


Should a couple wait to get engaged until they have a fight, so that they know how the other person acts in that situation?



Dear Anna,

This was an interesting question. I hope I do justice to the answer.

I believe the concern you are expressing is a valid and common concern for a young couple considering marriage. Conflict resolution is an essential part of any relationship -- especially marriage! So what is the best way to know that you, as a couple, can resolve conflicts?

I don't believe that waiting for that "first" fight is necessary to become engaged. It certainly is beneficial for seeing how each other acts in that situation -- but THAT situation is not necessarily true to a marriage situation. Dating or courtship and marriage are NOT the same situation. So while having a fight gives you some information, it will not be enough for you to assess whether or not you will be able to deal well with conflicts as a couple.

I do believe there is a better way to see how each other is able to cope with conflict. As a couple you should be spending time with each other's family!

The way you see your boyfriend interact with his parents and siblings will reveal more to you about how he can deal with conflicts then any fight you might have now before marriage! How he treats family is very much how he will treat you, because once you are married, and the "honeymoon is over" so to speak, YOU will be his family!

The same goes for him with you. As he spends time with you in your family, seeing you deal with parents and siblings, he will see the patterns of conflict resolution that you will be bringing into your marriage.

Also spending time in a variety of group activities helps you to see how each other behaves in a variety of circumstances. This is so important and is one reason why a couple who is dating or courting should not spend too much time in isolation.

How you treat each other when you are alone while dating tells you certain things about each other. But, let's face it, most people in a dating relationship put their best foot forward as much as possible. The relationship is exciting and new and full of mystery. Both people are generally willing to sacrifice or compromise to maintain a certain level of peace in the relationship. (If you haven't seen any spirit of sacrifice yet in BOTH of you, don't get engaged. The ability to sacrifice oneself is an essential ingredient in marriage!) Sometimes, though, while dating, this spirit of sacrifice masks over many conflicts and a couple never seems "to fight". But, when you are at home in the family, the guards come down!

So, if you see patterns of behaviour in the family that concern you . . . be warned and prepared that these patterns will carry into marriage, unless they are addressed and changed before marriage. A man who does not show respect toward his mother or sisters, will not likely have a great deal of respect for his wife. A woman who cannot control her temper with her family, will not likely be able to control her temper with her husband and children.

But all conflict resolution skills are patterns which we learn. If we have learned bad patterns, we can also learn good patterns. But it takes effort and time -- change does not happen over night, or as a result of a ring on a finger! If there is a concern in the relationship, deal with it before becoming engaged.

If there is no concern that you can see as you spend time with each other in family life, then go ahead a become engaged . . . if you have prayerfully discerned that to be God's will for your life! And don't worry, the time will come when you have disagreements and fights. Hopefully you will be with each other " gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love", as is our God with us!

Here are some thoughts from Scripture:

"It is good sense in a man to be slow to anger, and it is his glory to
overlook an offense."
(Proverbs 19:11)

"He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his
spirit than he who takes a city."
(Proverbs 16:32)

"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets
(Proverbs 15:18)

"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty
temper exalts folly."
(Proverbs 14: 29)

"Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God." (James 1:19-20)

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you, Anna. Please know that our family remembers in prayer all those who visit my website. We ask that you would also keep us and this apostolate work of promoting purity in your prayers as well.

In His Most Holy Name,