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Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage: How Healthy Conflict Can Take You to Deeper Levels of Intimacy Kindle Edition

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Length: 258 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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About the Author

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as Executive Director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as president of the National Institute of Marriage. He is the author of eleven books, including The DNA of Relationships, The DNA of Parent and Teen Relationships, and The Wholehearted Marriage. Greg lives in Colorado with his wife Erin and their four children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


One

The Power of Healthy Conflict



Your marriage needs conflict.

And yet, sadly, people rarely believe this. It’s probably because conflict is a topic that makes many of us feel uncomfortable. It can bring fear to our hearts and remind us of past failures and acts of which we are ashamed. Our lives are pockmarked by battles and arguments with our loved ones, like the one I experienced while returning from a date night with my wife.

“You’re speeding,” Erin warned.

“I’m driving the speed limit,” I snapped. “Quit trying to control me.”

“I’m telling you that the speed limit is thirty-five,” Erin shot back, “and you’re doing forty-five. You’re going to get a ticket!”

“This is a brand-new road in the middle of nowhere,” I argued. “Why would they make it thirty-five? I’m positive that it’s forty-five. Besides, why would anyone care if I’m going a little fast on a deserted road?”

Apparently someone cared, as evidenced by the blue and red lights flashing behind me.



Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.

—WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING



And before I could give her that look that says, “Don’t you dare,” Erin gloated, “I warned you. But maybe you’ll learn to believe me after our insurance rates go up.”

This was one of those moments when I desperately wanted to run far away from my wife, but I figured that fleeing my vehicle might present a whole new set of problems for me.

As the officer approached my window, he asked the one question that I was hoping he wouldn’t: “Do you know how fast you were going?”

Haven’t you ever wanted to smart off by saying something like “No . . . it’s really difficult to see over the beer can,” or “I don’t, but I bet you do!” I’m so glad I only think these things and don’t say them out loud.

Well, before I could actually say “No, kind sir, I don’t know how fast I was going” in my politest voice, Erin snapped, “He knows. I told him he was speeding, but he chose not to listen.”

Ouch.

To make matters worse, the officer said, “So you don’t know how fast you were going. I guess that means I can write anything I want on the ticket, huh?”

Again . . . ouch! Who were these two, a comedy team?

I probably should have stopped there, but I thought that after the drubbing I’d received from my wife and the officer, he’d have compassion for me.

“Any way you’d let me off with a warning?” I begged. “The real punishment will be having to endure the ‘I told you so’ all the way home. A ticket would be over the top—like beating a dead horse.”

When will I learn that some people don’t find me funny?

“You want a warning?” the officer said graciously. “Okay, I’m warning you that if you go above the speed limit again, I’ll give you another ticket.”

With that, I was done. Unfortunately, Erin wasn’t finished. After she directed some additional choice words and phrases at me, we spent the rest of the drive home in silence.

You may be wondering, “How could an interaction like that be something my marriage needs?” Let me explain.

CONFLICT: BEAUTY OR THE BEAST?

What images come into your mind when you think about conflict? Perhaps you fought with your parents, kids in the neighborhood, school bullies, friends in junior high, or teachers. Maybe your marriage is riddled with conflict today, or perhaps you never fight. Whatever your past or current experiences, how do you perceive conflict? Are these images positive or negative? Conflict has the potential for beauty, but at the same time, there is also a “beast” lurking in it if we mishandle our conflicts.

In an unhealthy sense, if we avoid conflict, pretend it doesn’t exist, gossip to others about it, get angry, or intimidate others into doing what we want, the greater the problem will become, and the greater the relational damage will be. Couples who do not work out their differences and manage their conflict issues are at risk for divorce.

The apostle Paul recognized this when he wrote, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

Many couples hate to confront disagreements and hurts because they’re afraid of rocking the boat, so they choose to keep the peace at any price and sweep their issues under the rug. However, this strategy usually does not resolve the problem, because suppressed conflict is always buried alive, and it often festers until it becomes a much bigger problem. In the end, buried issues end up exploding like a massive volcano, leaving our spouse and family members in its wake of destruction. Dallin H. Oaks said, “Peace . . . is not just the absence of war. It’s the opposite of war.”1

In Matthew 5:23–24 we are encouraged to deal with relationship problems so that our hearts will be right when we worship the Lord. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

The difficulty with mishandled conflict is that it creates an unsafe environment. Spouses feel like they are walking on a thin layer of volcanic crust, while underneath rages a river of molten lava ready to consume those trapped nearby. And when people feel unsafe, their heart closes and they disconnect. This is why, when asked about divorce, Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard” (Matthew 19:8). A hard heart is the kiss of death to a marriage, and that is exactly what prolonged, unhealthy conflict creates: a hardened heart! King Solomon deeply understood the reality of a hard heart: “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars” (Proverbs 18:19). Indeed, not confronting and managing conflict often causes long-term resentment, which eventually destroys feelings of love in a marriage. The bottom line is your marriage may not last if you do not work through issues. This is why two of the world’s top marriage experts, Scott Stanley and Howard Markman, claim that managing conflict is the key to staying in love and staying married. Their thirty years of research indicate that if couples learned to work out their conflicts, the overall divorce rate could be cut by over 50 percent.2



No pressure, no diamonds.

—MARY CASE



That’s amazing! Who knew that actually facing our differences and managing our conflict in a healthy way could produce such results? It’s true that conflict can be a beast, but there also exists a beauty. I love marital-art master Thomas Crum’s image of conflict:

One of the myths is the idea that conflict is negative. . . . Nature doesn’t see conflict as a negative. Nature uses conflict as a primary motivator for change. Imagine floating down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Quiet water flowing into exhilarating rapids. Hidden canyons with shade trees and wildflowers. Clear springs of drinkable water. Solitude and silence that can be found in few places in today’s world. And those majestic cliffs looming above, with fantastic patterns in the rock and all the colors of the rainbow displayed. The Grand Canyon is truly one of the world’s greatest wonders and provides us with a profound sense of harmony and peace. Yet how was that amazing vista formed? Eons and eons of water flowing, continually wearing away the rock, carrying it to the sea. A conflict that continues to this day. Conflict isn’t negative, it just is.3

Let’s face it, unless you’re a black belt like Thomas Crum, few people are genuinely excited about conflict. And yet it’s essential that we recognize conflict for what it is: an unavoidable and potentially beneficial part of being in a relationship with another human being.

Let me explain these two truths about conflict. First, conflict is inevitable. Any person involved in a sustained relationship is bound to experience conflict with that other person eventually. It’s a part of getting to know and adjusting to a person, his or her habits, values, and ways of functioning. Two people will never have the same expectations, thoughts, opinions, or needs. In fact, marriage expert Dr. Larry Nadig believes that a relationship with no apparent conflict may be unhealthier than one with frequent conflict.4

Absence of conflict suggests the presence of deadened emotions or a hardened heart, or that one spouse is being suppressed or giving in to his or her mate. This might be acceptable over the short term, but over the long term, it’s very dangerous to the marriage. Anger is likely to build to the point where the conflict, when it surfaces, will be more intense than it needed to be. Second, although conflict is unavoidable, it can also bring amazing benefits to a relationship. Watch how this happens.

THE HIDDEN VALUE OF CONFLICT

Few people know that Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is home to Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only diamond-producing site in the world where the public can search for diamonds. For a small fee, visitors can dig for diamonds and keep whatever they find.

The park is located above the eroded surface of an ancient volcanic pipe. This “crater” is actually a thirty-seven-acre open field that is plowed from time to time to bring diamonds and other gem-stones to the surface. I will never forget my first impression of this place. It wasn’t pretty. What they don’t tell you in their lovely brochure is that the volcanic field (don’t forget the eroded part) is a treeless wasteland of dirt and rocks and, apparently, dia...

Product Details

  • File Size: 962 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416544836
  • Publisher: Howard Books (November 6, 2012)
  • Publication Date: November 6, 2012
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007EDOLUQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,414 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Dr. Greg Smalley earned his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University in Southern California. He also holds two masters degrees: one is in counseling psychology from Denver Seminary and the other is in clinical psychology from Rosemead School of Psychology.
Dr. Smalley is president of Smalley Marriage Institute, a marriage and family ministry located in Branson, Missouri. He also serves at the chairman of the board of the National Marriage Association.

He has appeared on television and radio programs, including "Focus on the Family" and "Hour of Power," and has published over 100 articles on parenting and relationship issues for "Living with Teenagers," "Shine," "Homes of Honor," "Christian Parenting Today," "ParentLife," "HonorBound," and "Branson Living." He and his father, Gary Smalley, are the coauthors of a book for parents of teenagers, "Bound By Honor," published in 1998 by Focus on The Family/Tyndale House. He is also the coauthor of "Winning Your Wife Back" and "Winning Your Husband Back," published in 1999 by Thomas Nelson, and "Men's Relational Toolbox," published in 2003 by Tyndale House, which was coauthored with his dad, Gary, and his brother, Michael.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Edwards on November 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Conflict. Every married couple experiences it. It can often end with slamming doors and sulking silence. Marriage would be perfect if we could just get rid of the conflict. Right?

Not so, according to Dr. Greg Smalley author of the new book, Fight Your Way To a Better Marriage: How Healthy Conflict Can Take You To Deeper Levels of Intimacy.

Conflict can be a good thing in a marriage when handled with understanding, and Smalley lays out the groundwork for approaching inevitable conflict between spouses.

Fight Your Way examines the dynamics of conflicts - how simple disagreements can spiral wildly out of control because our own heart issues, our tendency to listen to the enemies lies, and our unwillingness to step back and examine ourselves.

Smalley's balanced, Biblical advice cuts through the confusion of cyclical conflict and gives a married couple a starting point to begin establishing a trusting, openhearted relationship. Smalley sees conflict, not as something to be avoided, but something to be walked through in order to draw closer to a spouse, to draw closer to God, and to examine issues in our own hearts that need dealt with.

Now it is true, there is nothing new under the sun, and, quite frankly, Fight Your Way To a Better Marriage really isn't saying anything dramatically new. But I found Smalley's take on marital conflict easy to process, encouraging, and uncomplicated. But I also found it spiritually well grounded; God taking center stage in the marriage journey.

As a bonus, Smalley's writing style is humorous and engaging, balancing solid counseling advice with stories of conflict lifted from his own life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JANICE W on December 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is concise and easily understood. Very practical advice not just for marriages but conflict resolution in general.The book explains the basic issues and how to react differently
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wilhemina Strengholt on December 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent book! I heard the author interviewed and was very impressed by the book as well. Highly recommend to anyone who is interested in bettering your marriage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert G on June 29, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of his previous book, now out of print. The concept of the fear dance has explained many of the foolish fights I have had in my marriage. This is now an updated model of his exceptional insights into the interactions that can destroy a marital relationship. It is presented in a humorous, self deprecating manner that makes needed truths easier to hear. I highly recommend it to any 2 humans, who want to walk through life together( in spite of themselves).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LvilleLee on February 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Best book we have read to date on how to keep effective communications going and conflict managed positively. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elton Beldock on July 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read several books about marriage and seen more than one marriage therapist, but this book really has the practical steps that get to the root of the marriage issues... ourselves, not our spouse. This book is not for the faint at heart and will take Godly character to face the reality in the marriage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Brewer on August 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm about half way through. I don't like that my frustrations with my spouse are bring attributed to Satan rather than to miscommunication in our marriage. This is not what I was hoping for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By baby goodies on February 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Easy read, good advise, true to the relationship. Would order this book again and again and again for gifts for my family and friends. Those who I love that i know are having a rough time.
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