My wife’s internal thermostat is broken. At least that’s what I tell her, because whenever I am hot, she is cold, and when I am cold, she is hot. This leads to covers being pulled up and kicked off all night, clothes being put on in layers, and the fireplace being turned on and off multiple times throughout the cooler evenings. We both want to be comfortable, so we do the best we can to control our environment.
Conflict is inevitable in any healthy relationship. Because God created us as unique individuals with differing perspectives, in a relationship as close and intimate as marriage there will always be some level of disagreement. Sometimes that disagreement is minor, and sometimes it is major. There are multiple methods couples can utilize to handle conflict in a healthy and productive way, but one that is often overlooked is being very intentional about cultivating and controlling the environment prior to the conflict.
What environment are you cultivating and controlling in your home? Undoubtedly, during a conflict it will get heated, but what about on a day-to-day basis? Do you show kindness to your spouse regularly, without any thought of what you’ll get in return? Are you patient when he/she takes longer to do something than it takes you? Does your mate hear positive and encouraging words from you every day? Do you play together and laugh together often? When you give up something you want to do to help your love, do you do so with joy? Does your love know he/she can count on your word? When mistakes happen, does your spouse know he/she can be honest with you even when it might hurt to do so? Do you verbalize and show your love for your mate? If you regularly live in an environment of forgiveness, encouragement, selflessness, care, and integrity before a conflict occurs, then when conflict happens it becomes a much easier road to travel, because you know you are traveling it together.
Please understand that controlling the environment in your home is NOT controlling your mate. Cultivating a good environment cannot include manipulation, guilt, passive-aggressive games, or other forms of forced control. Cultivating a good environment in your home means you recognize that you are responsible for your choices and how you live in relation to your spouse. Are you proactively doing things to create a healthy climate for your marriage? You cannot make you spouse say or do anything he/she doesn’t want to do. And from time to time, your spouse will do things you don’t like. But, if you both are committed to Christ, committed to each other, and committed to the marriage, then you will work together to create an ongoing environment that will bless both of you.
Holding on to grudges, anger, pride, and selfishness will kill a marriage. Recognize that you will both make mistakes from time to time, and decide now what you both need to do to cultivate and ongoing environment of forgiveness, encouragement, selflessness, care, and integrity. Then when conflict does come, the heat won’t get turned up quite so quickly. Are you "controlling the thermostat" together?
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