5 A’s Activity

Little exercise to do in under 5 minutes. Keep the responses and questions short! This is not the time to deal with big issues… Do right before bedtime.

Affirmation – give each other an affirmation about what you appreciated about each other that day

Apology – How did I hurt you today? Each person can only share one incident, after which the person who asked needs to respond with, “I am sorry for hurting you. Will you forgive me?” Try hard not to defend yourself during this time. This is for minor offenses not big relationship issues. Keep it short!

Affection – this is the time to show affection physically. This can simply be a hug, kiss, a love pat or holding hands

Ask – Is there anything I can do for you tomorrow/today? (remember… the whole exercise is under 5 minutes! this is no time for a honey do list.)

Amen – How can I pray for you? Follow with a quick prayer.

5 Simple Techniques for the Mastery of Conflict

1. There must be a basic agreement that both people have a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because she disagrees with the other person or does things differently.

There is something wonderful about being told, “I disagree with you, but you have a legitimate right to think and feel the way you do.” This substantially reduces the threat of feeling wrong just because you’re different. That’s a troubling feelings that can result in defensiveness and combativeness.

2. Both persons need to be fully heard by their partner and they need to know they have been accurately understood. It’s more important to be heard and understood than to win a point. If I know that the other person understands my thoughts and feelings, I almost automatically feel relieved even if our differences continue.

The technique I have found to be most helpful in this regard was originally proposed by Dr. Carl Rogers, a famous American psychologist. It goes like this: Each partner is required to put into his or her own words what the other person has said before making the next comment. Reflecting your partner’s feelings and thoughts like this contributes surprisingly to the resolution process.

3. Your points of disagreement need to be specific clearly and then agreed upon. Most conflicts occur over minor disagreements.

Imagine this. You and your husband are arguing about what to do tonight. He wants to go to a professional basketball game, but you want to rent a movie.

“I want to go to the game, because it will determine whether the Knicks will make the playoffs. I’m a big fan, and this is a crucial game. I want to be with you and see the game.”

“But wait. I’m tired. This has been an exhausting week and I just need to stay home. I want to rent a movie, fix a simple dinner, and watch the movie with you in front of the fire.”

As the argument builds, new dimensions keep emerging. You say tickets are too expensive and there might not be any tickets available by the time you get there. He says you never want to go anywhere, that you are tired a lot, that you can watch a movie anytime.

Here’s whether conflict-resolution skill number three comes in. Together, specify the differences. Basketball vs movie. Staying home vs going out. Spending a lot of money vs being thrifty. You’ve cleared away the other points that confuse things and identified the root issues.

4. An attitude of give and take greatly facilitates resolution. You need to say, “Let’s see, where can I give and where can you give so we can move toward one another?” When a couple says this, they are on the threshold of actually benefiting from their conflict. This statement conveys an attitude of compromise, an obvious desire for both persons to be winners. There is a willingness to change in order to obtain a mutually satisfying final result. It’s wonderful to be “partnered” with somebody who wants you to be a winner without being a loser himself.

Here’s the kind of thing you might say about the movie-basketball game impasse: I know how much you want to see the game, and you’re right, we can watch this movie anytime. Would you feel ok watching the game on tv? “That would be ok. I’d love to go to the game, but I know you’re tired. Let me order pizza so you don’t have to cook.”

Conflicts are easily resolved if the partners’ basic attitudes toward each other are healthy, positive, and loving. Conflict becomes dangerous and difficult when one or both persons feel uncared for, misunderstood, and minimized. When you sense the person you love is eager to resolve a difference in a way that will leave you both feeling good, you become cooperative. You’ll probably become combative if you feel she wants to win and hardly cares about what you want.

5. When you resolve a conflict with your partner, congratulate each other. Praise the person you love for the qualities that allowed both of you to get your needs met and feel important in the process. Reinforcement.

My wife and I have an ongoing conflict that revolves around the temperature in our home. I like it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than she does. We try to compromise to maintain the peace between us and keep us comfortable.

One night, she went to bed early and I stayed up late to watch a delayed telecast of the UCLA-Oregon basketball game. Around midnight, I realized the room was very warm – even warmer than I like it. But I didn’t do anything about it because I was so engrossed in the game. Eventually, I went on to bed without checking the thermostat.

The next morning, she said, “Part of the reason we didn’t sleep very well last night is because the heat was left on so high. I had turned it way up so it would be nice and warm when you came home from work.”

I was deeply touched by that and said, “I’m really sorry that I left it on so high. I was excited about the game, and I just went right by the thermostat without checking it.” Then I said what touched me, “That was so loving of you to have turned the heat up so I would feel warm at dinner.”

I tell this story to get her response, which is a good example of conflict-resolution skill number five. It didn’t come until that evening. She said in a casual moment, “That was wonderful the way you handled the matter about the heat. I thought about it several times today at work.” That’s all she said and it made me want to create some more conflict right then so I could handle it wonderfully again. It made me feel a whole new burst of love for her. Imagine! I felt all that simply because she reinforced me for the way I had reinforced her. We had managed conflict in a way that left both of us feeling more loved by and more loving toward the other person.

An excerpt from Finding the Love of Your Life by Neil Clark Warren

Reverse-Engineering Your Marriage

The most important day of your life and your marriage is, of course, the last day. And when it comes to marriage, so many couples are encouraged to invest so much time, energy, and money to get the perfect wedding. From the florist, to the caterer, to the photographer, to the attendants, to the attire, it is all about having a great first day. And it’s important and it’s a great gift to have a great first day, but the last day is the most important day.

Will the last day of your marriage come prematurely through divorce? Will the last day of your marriage be filled with regrets as you stand over the coffin of your spouse? OR by God’s grace will the last day be a day to rejoice in a life lived together and remember the gift your spouse was to you while on earth?

To finish well on the last day of your marriage, it is not enough to simply have passion and principles. You also need a plan. Marriages start with passion and over the years accrue principles, but apart from a plan, the passion and principles are powerless. You must choose whether you will spend your time making plans or excuses.

An excerpt from Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll. The last chapter includes a framework document to work through.

A Man’s Response to Finding a Wife

It is extraordinary that the first three recorded marriages in the Bible show the man’s response to finding a wife. Adam was excited. Isaac found comfort. Jacob wept. You’d think that Eve, Rebekah, and Rachel would be the ones with their emotions spread across the pages.

First, when God established in Genesis 2:24 that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,” God firmly put the responsibility of marriage formation upon men. He can use the help of his parents and trusted agents, but it is ultimately his responsibility to make sure he marries. Since the leadership in this area falls squarely on men, it stands to reason that the man’s feelings and emotions at the end of his efforts should be noted. Each one of these men had to do something, expend some effort, sacrifice something – whether it was Adam’s rib donation, Isaac’s expense of a caravan and costly gifts, or Jacob’s long-distance journey and years of hard work. It is only appropriate that the man’s duty in fulfilling his biblical obligations be remembered by nothing his emotions at the successful completion of his duty.

An excerpt from Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbin Maken

Truck and Bridge Analogy

Think of an old bridge over a stream. Imagine that there are structural defects in the bridge that are hard to see. Here may be hairline fractures that a very close inspection would reveal, but to the naked eye there is nothing wrong. But now see a ten-ton Mack truck drive onto the bridge. What will happen? The pressure from the weight of the truck will open those hairline fractures so they can be seen. The structural defects will be exposed for all to see because of the strain the truck puts on the bridge. Suddenly, you can see where all the flaws are. The truck didn’t create the weaknesses; it revealed them.

When you get married, your spouse is a big truck driving right through your heart. Marriage brings out the worst in you. It doesn’t create your weaknesses – it reveals them. This is not a bad thing, though. How can you change into your glory-self if you assume that you’re already pretty close to perfect as it is?

An excerpt from The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

The Purpose of Marriage

“What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have.

Have you ever traveled to a mountainous part of the world when it was cloudy and rainy? You look out your windows and you can see almost nothing but the ground. Then the rain stops and the clouds part and you catch your breath because there, towering right over you, is this magnificent peak. But a couple of hours later the clouds roll in and it has vanished, and you don’t see it again for a good while. That is what it is like to get to know a Christian.

You have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:24). The old self is crippled with anxieties, the need to prove yourself, bad habits you can’t break, and many besetting sins and entrenched character flaws. The new self is still you, but you liberated from all your sins and flaws.

This new self is always a work in progress, and sometimes the clouds of the old self make it almost completely invisible. But sometimes the clouds really part, and you see the wisdom, courage, and love of which you are capable. It is a glimpse of where you are going.

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’”

Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse then should give him- or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory.

My wife, Kathy, often says that most people, when they are looking for a spouse, are looking for a finished statue when they should be looking for a wonderful block of marble. Not so you can create the kind of person you want, but rather because you see what kind of person Jesus is making.

When Michelangelo was asked how he carved his magnificent David, his reply is reputed to have been, “I looked inside the marble and just took away the bits that weren’t David.” When looking for a marriage partner, each must be able to look inside the other and see what God is doing and be excited about being part of the process of liberating the emerging “new you.”

“If we let Him . . . He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less.” (C.S. Lewis)

This is by no means a naïve, romanticized approach—rather it is brutally realistic. In this view of marriage, each person says to the other, “I see all your flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, dependencies. But underneath them all I see growing the person God wants you to be.”

This is radically different from the search for “compatibility.” As we have seen, researchers have discovered that this term means we are looking for a partner who accepts us just as we are. This is the very opposite of that! The search for an ideal mate is a hopeless quest.

This is also a radically different approach from the cynical or cold method of finding a spouse who can just deliver social status, financial security, or great sex. If you don’t see your mate’s deep flaws and weaknesses and dependencies, you’re not even in the game. But if you don’t get excited about the person your spouse has already grown into and will become, you aren’t tapping into the power of marriage as spiritual friendship.

The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved. You see even now flashes of glory. You want to help your spouse become the person God wants him or her to be.”

When two Christians who fully understand this stand before the minister all decked out in their wedding finery, they realize they’re not just playing dress-up. What they’re saying is that someday they are going to be standing not before the minister but before the Lord. And they will turn to see each other without spot and blemish.

And they hope to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Over the years you have lifted one another up to me. You sacrificed for one another. You held one another up with prayer and with thanksgiving. You confronted each other. You rebuked each other. You hugged and you loved each other and continually pushed each other toward me. And now look at you. You’re radiant.”

Romance, sex, laughter, and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement, glorification. Those things are important, but they can’t keep the marriage going through years and years of ordinary life. What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. You’re committed to his greatness and perfection. You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God.

That’s your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married. Now we can see how marriage-as-friendship agrees so well with love-as-commitment.

On the cross, Jesus did not look down on us with a heart full of admiration and affection. He felt no “chemistry.” But he gave himself. He put our needs ahead of his own; he sacrificed for us. But the Bible tells spouses not only to imitate the quality and manner of Christ’s love but also the goal of it. Jesus died not because we were lovely, but to make us lovely. He died, Paul says, to “make us holy.”

Paradoxically, this means Paul is urging spouses to help their mates love Jesus more than them.  It’s a paradox but not a contradiction. The simple fact is that only if I love Jesus more than my wife will I be able to serve her needs ahead of my own. Only if my emotional tank is filled with love from God will I be able to be patient, faithful, tender, and open with my wife when things are not going well in life or in the relationship. And the more joy I get from my relationship with Christ, the more I can share that joy with my wife and family.

An excerpt from The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Why am I Committed to this Person?

Am I committed to this other person for who he is or for the enjoyment I receive from the relationship? Does my beloved understand what is truly best for me, and does he have the faith and virtue to help me get there? Are we deeply united by a common aim, serving each other and striving together toward a common good that is higher than each of us? Or are we just living side-by-side, sharing resources and occasional good times together while we selfishly pursue our own interests and enjoyments in life?”

Read that last question again and see if that doesn’t describe the sad reality for many people today. Divorce happens in large part because people see others as means to personal pleasure rather than persons to whom they wish to give themselves. Yet, for those willing to stick around, Vanier describes the renewal that comes with opening up a marriage to its divine calling:

“Through the joys and ecstasies, but also through the pain, the blockages, and times of forgiveness, they progressively learn how to love and be faithful. They learn that love is a gift, a beautiful gift, but that each one has to work at loving.… At first the gift of their tenderness and their bodies is very immature. But because they want their union to be a sign of the presence of God and a sacrament, they grow together in love and truth through this ‘work.’ Together they become a sign of the Kingdom.

An excerpt from Men, Women and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri