"Marriage is made in heaven - but so is thunder and lightning," said Clint Eastwood. The fact is, when it comes to marriage, all couples "fight." Even Dirty Harry agrees that all couples have conflict. In fact, the only couples who do not have conflict are those who are either deceased or in a relationship in which one partner has so beaten down the other partner, that other partner has given up. Ironically, conflict is not the sign of death for a relationship; cold indifference is. Where there is conflict, there is life in a relationship, no matter how small that spark may be.

So the question is not how you can avoid or suppress conflict in your marriage, the question is how you can turn conflict in your marriage into a catalyst for couple growth and relational strength.

Author Gary Chapman says in his book, "Everybody Wins," the key is to learn how to turn one's "differences into assets rather than liabilities." This starts by having the right attitude. The right attitude consists of having a "conflict resolver" mentality which is motivated by the belief that one's marriage conflict can be resolved in a way that both spouses benefit. In the marriages where couples have this mentality, both spouses can win. Here are some other tips on how to fight fair and win.

Chapman shares three attitudes that characterize a "conflict resolver" mentality.

  1. The first is to have an attitude of respect. This means each spouse is genuinely able to treat the other as a person of worth. Recognizing each other as having equal worth and treating each other with respect brings the walls of suspicion, hurt and defensiveness down.

  2. Second, is to demonstrate an attitude of togetherness, by working as a team rather than opponents in regard to your conflicts. The seemingly simple act of acknowledging and verbalizing that your spouse is not the enemy but a teammate with whom together you can solve your conflict, can unlock the door to conflict resolution.

  3. Finally, displaying an attitude of love that is expressed by seeking to enrich your spouse's life can be life changing in a relationship. True love by nature is others-centered. True love is seeking the best interest of your spouse.

Powerful words expressed in the Bible confirm the importance of showing this kind of others-centered love when it says "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience... over all these virtues put on love." (From the book of Colossians chapter 3 verse 12 and 14, NIV version). While one's euphoric feelings of being in love have an average life span of two years, according to author Dorothy Tennov, every day we can choose to love our spouse through our actions. The choice to love is a daily decision for as long as we live, and time doesn't dissipate this choice.

It has been said that there are about the same amount of lightning strikes in the Cascades Mountains of Washington compared to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. However, there are much fewer fires in Washington than Colorado because of one thing: rain. In the same way, the "lightning strikes" of conflict in our marriage do not have to turn into fires when the "rain" of love is present. Both partners can win in a marriage where true love is genuinely demonstrated.

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