Religion in Society

Religious Group Says ‘Marriage Without Conflict is Dead’

| by Lifeway

A marriage without conflict is dead.

If there are two living people in a marriage, conflicts, disagreements and misunderstandings will occur. It’s called being alive and human.

About 400 people attended a Festival of Marriage in Panama City, Fla., Sept. 25-27, where they heard experts in marriage ministry speak on topics such as sexuality, communication, stress, spiritual intimacy and conflict resolution.

This year celebrates the 30th year of the Festival of Marriage events sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Breakout session leaders Jerry and Bayne Pounds led sessions on conflict resolution in marriage.

"Conflict is a natural life fact," Jerry Pounds said. "It results from different needs and interests. Many people look at conflict like it’s an unusual thing, but it isn’t."

Both of the Pounds are work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is assistant to the president and professor of discipleship. She is assistant professor of Christian education and director of institutional reports.

They offered several tips for resolving conflicts:

- Focus on prevention. Be proactive and try to keep a problem from escalating into an argument.

- Uphold personal integrity. Keep your spouse’s feelings in consideration and avoid ugly personal attacks.

- Stop the explosion before it happens. If things are getting out of hand, agree to a break to cool off before continuing the discussion.

- Practice "I" messages instead of "you" messages. "I" messages express how you personally feel, while "you" messages generally are accusatory.

- Avoid destructive patterns such as criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Use tools that will lead to a resolution of the conflict.

Bayne Pounds acknowledged that anger is a by-product of conflict.

"It’s normal to get angry, but it’s important to remember that anger is a choice you make," she said. "No one can make you angry. They may do some bad things, but you choose anger as a response."

She referenced Harriet Lerner, author of "The Dance of Anger" in offering some questions individuals can ask when conflict goes in the direction of anger:
- What am I really angry about?

- What is the problem and whose problem is it?

- How can I sort out who is responsible for what?

- How can I learn to express my anger in a way that will not leave me feeling helpless and powerless?

- When I am angry, how can I clearly communicate my position without becoming defensive or attacking?

"Conflict comes from a lot of places," Jerry Pounds said. "It can come from boredom, honest disagreement and even triggers from your past. Just be aware of where the conflict is coming from and deal with it."

Bayne Pounds said that loving your spouse doesn’t mean you will have a conflict-free marriage, possibly just the opposite.

"Conflict arises anytime two people spend time together," she said, "and married people are together a lot."

LifeWay offers four more FOM events in 2009. Go to for dates, locations and registration information.