In marriage, there will be many occasions when we must confront our spouses about something they’ve done that we don’t like. It might be a slight concern or annoyance. It could be a larger, more serious offense.
Whatever the problem, we need to be able to challenge our spouses in a healthy, healing manner. This is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and it is very important. Some of the greatest damage to marriages occurs when a couple is trying to resolve a dispute.
Usually the problem isn’t the confrontation itself. It’s how we do it that causes the most problems.
This is where the Bible has some important words for us. In Ephesians, Paul writes that we should be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Proverbs 3:3 says “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.”
In any confrontation, we must balance truth with kindness and love. Truth is powerful, but by itself, it can be dangerous. I’ve known people who pride themselves on how truthful they are. I’ve known these same people to practically butcher others with their harshness and insensitivity.
Truth must never travel alone.
But in the same way, love by itself—without truth—can be little more than spineless, blubbering goodwill. Some people take pride in how loving or non-judgmental they are, but how loving is it to withhold truth that might help another person? Where is the kindness in refusing to keep someone from harm?Real love must contain truth. Love is putting your arm around your spouse and graciously speaking the truth with genuine concern and affirmation.
Any marriage with an imbalance of truth or love is unhealthy.
So let’s say you and your spouse commit to balancing these two virtues. What then?
The next step is to pay attention to timing. “In your anger, do not sin,” Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26. Some spouses have extra-volatile clashes because they don’t deal with issues in a timely manner. They let frustration and offenses build up, then they explode with anger.
The longer you wait to discuss problems and concerns, the more you ensure a big blowup in the future. It’s much easier to sin—to be too harsh, to exaggerate, to insult, to cause emotional wounds—when your anger spikes.
And the longer you wait to talk things out, the more opportunity the enemy has to introduce unhealthy thoughts and feelings into the relationship.
Before the next disagreement arises, commit to do two things for your spouse. First, promise to speak the truth but to do it with kindness and love.
Second, promise to bring things up in a timely fashion, before an offense has time to fester.
Not only will this commitment improve communication right now, but it will protect your marriage against explosive conflicts in the future.