If you’ve been married more than a month, you know that most conflicts in marriage have much deeper roots than the immediate issue. A series of small decisions build up to a major conflict.
Each time you turn one of the tuning knobs on a guitar, the tension increases…and increases…and increases. If you keep turning the knob, eventually the string will snap. In the same way, conflict in marriage builds and builds until someone snaps at the other person.
The silly thing about this cycle is that it’s usually preventable.
- Most small conflicts come from either poor communication, poor expectations, or poor behavior.
- Most larger conflicts are predictable.
- Far too often, married couples are running with no relational margin.
You need a plan for how to communicate about life and money, and you need to make constant deposits into your relationship. Each time you have good communication, it prevents tension from building and, each time you make a relational deposit, you reduce tension.
Every marriage will have conflict and tension. Happy marriages have spent enough time pouring into the relationship that they can handle the conflict. Likewise, people in happy marriages do things intentionally to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Here are five suggestions (one daily, two weekly, one monthly, and one annually) for how to build relational currency, communicate better, and set better expectations for what is to come.
Obviously, you talk daily in the technical sense. You say words with your mouth to one another. You talk business daily, but do you talk relationally daily?
- “Can you take out the trash?”
- “What time do we have to pick up the kids?”
- “When does the game start?”
- “When do you think you’ll be home?”
MEET WEEKLY FOR BUSINESS
One of the best ways to remove conflict in marriage is to simply meet together weekly to get on the same page. Like I said earlier, so many conflicts and small frustrations could be avoided simply by communicating your expectations in advance. Leaving an expectation unstated is like setting a land mine and waiting for them to step on it to find it!
The meeting doesn’t have to be long or complex. Just take 20 minutes to talk about what’s coming up in the near future.
- Sync your schedules for the week
- Talk about expectations
- Talk about the dinner plan for the week
- Talk about groceries
- Talk about what difficulties you’re expecting
- Tell the other person what you don’t think you’ll get done this week
- Tell the other person what you would like them to get done this week
This type of meeting looks very different depending on your stage of life. If you have multiple kids who each have multiple after school commitments, a weekly business meeting can be a marriage saver!
MEET WEEKLY FOR FUN
Most likely, when you first started dating, all you did was get together to have fun. Whether it was going to the movies, getting dinner, going to football games, or going dancing, you had fun!
My wife and I spent most of our dating relationship 1,200 miles apart. So, we had to be creative with how we would have fun. Our method of choice was long-distance-movie-dates (free long distance on cell phones is a wonderful thing when you’re in a long distance relationship). Once we had one another on the phone, we start a countdown, and at zero we’d both push play. Of course, this never worked perfectly, but that was half the fun. It would take several rounds of pausing and pushing play before we’d get our movies in sync. Even though we were 1,200 miles apart, we found ways to have fun.
You would think that date nights and fun time would just immediate jump to the top of every married couple’s priority list. Unfortunately, once life starts to catch up with you, fun time becomes less and less of a priority.
To some extent, this is just the reality of life. When you’re newly married and have no kids, you have lots of disposable time. This changes at different phases of marriage. However, to state the obvious, if you entirely stop doing the thing which drew you together, you’re likely to drift apart.
A marriage without fun is like being in the business of raising kids and paying bills with someone. Kids are great, but I want my marriage to be defined by more than my roles as a parent and primary money earner.
Find a time every single week to stop and have fun together!
WRITE A BUDGET MONTHLY
Money provides so many opportunities for slowly rising tension:
- One person over spends
- One person refuses to spend
- One person is okay with debt, and the other isn’t
- Stress related to debt
- Stress related to loss of employment
- Stress related to retirement
- Stress related to paying for your child’s college
There are countless different ways that money can cause stress in a marriage!
If money is one of the places you’re most likely to have BIG conflict, doesn’t it seem wiser to talk about money before tensions rise instead of after? Doesn’t it seem wiser to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went?
The way you do this is to get together each month and write a budget.
When you write a monthly budget, both people need to have input, and both people need to agree to stick to the budget.
- A budget gives savers the certainty that they ARE saving
- A budget gives spenders the freedom to spend within a boundary
- A budget gives an action plan to pay off debt
- A budget enables you to give generously and responsibly from your first fruits instead of your left overs
I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey. He takes lots of complicated financial information, and packages it in a way that you can understand, and that works. But what’s more important than that is that the key word in his financial program is PEACE. If you haven’t been through his Financial Peace University, I highly recommend it. Otherwise, you can pick up his book The Total Money Makeover.
If daily conversations make very frequent small deposits in your relationship, and weekly fun nights make larger deposits at a less frequent rate, having an annual vacation without the kids is a way to make a HUGE relational deposit. Depending on your situation, this can be very difficult, but you need to find a way every year to block out a huge chunk of time to dedicate to your spouse.
Whether it’s a weekend vacation, or just a staycation, find time for just the two of you.
- Do something that is fun, memorable, and unique.
- Block time to reflect on the past year.
- Block time to discuss your hopes for the next year.
If you liked this blog, here are two more blogs from Modern Ministry on marriage: