Courting couples usually look forward to married life with joyful expectations. They say in their hearts, “We are made for each other. O how wonderful it will be to spend life together as a wedded couple in martial bliss. Till death us do part!”

However, after some time into their married life (and at times on the wedding day itself), couples begin to quarrel. When these quarrels are not resolved biblically and allowed to fester, they can engender great unhappiness and bitterness. Gone is the beautiful picture of marital bliss! Some out of anger and frustration may even claim to regret marrying their spouse. They complain of love that has gone cold. They scoff at the claim that marriage can be “sweeter as the years go by”. For them, such an idea is just a pipedream of courting couples or newlyweds.

How then can we resolve marital quarrels biblically and prevent our marriages from plunging into the doldrums?

Seek God
Firstly, we need to understand that marriage is not a man-made but divine institution. God was the one who ordained marriage (Genesis 1:26-29). He was the one who brought the woman unto man. “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him… And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” (Genesis 2:18; 21-22)

Marriage is not a bilateral but a trilateral relationship. Since God is the one who has placed the couple together, He is also the one who maintains the harmony in a marriage relationship. The Divine Matchmaker must be the Divine Marriage Counsellor. When God is taken out of the equation in a marriage relationship, it leads to problems and breakdown in marriages. Problems in marriages are invariably due to one or both parties walking far away from the Lord.

Marriage is a sacred covenant entered by a man and a woman before the Lord. They pledge to be loyal and loving companions to each other for life. If there is to be marital bliss, then they must abide by the rules of the covenant set by God. Otherwise, there will only be misery. Marriages without the Rock will soon be on the rocks! 

The first step therefore to resolving marital disputes is to seek God and His Word. God must be the one who binds the couple together. Start obeying God and His Word. Let every thought, word and motive be made with the glory of God in mind. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) This is the first step to a joyful marriage.

Humility, Humility, Humility
When couples get married, they often see the other party as the perfect partner of their dreams. However, we know that both husband and wife are but sinners who are saved by grace. Mistakes and misunderstandings will occur because of our struggles with sin. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:18-19)

Christians must put on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:3). There is no need to insist on being right all the time. Moreover, are you not also a sinner saved by grace like your spouse? How often have you not wronged your companion? Your spouse is also struggling against sin like you. Therefore, the couple ought to help one another in their walk with the Lord. Sit down and resolve the issue amicably with the Word of God rather than to hang on to pride. Let Christ be the healer of your relationship.

Mutual submission is important to maintain harmony in a marriage relationship. The Bible teaches us that the woman is made to be a help meet (i.e. suitable) for the man, but not inferior to him (Genesis 2:18-25). In the functional hierarchy of the family set by God, man is to be the head of the family, and the woman is to submit to the leadership of the man (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Chaos arises when this divine pattern is usurped. Alas, in many marriages, it is the wife who dons the pants and the man who dons the skirt! The result is broken relationships, families and marriages. How tragic!

On the other hand, the husband is not to become a dictator over the wife. He must never use the command of the wife’s submission as an excuse for his arrogant and abusive behaviour. Nor should it be used as a trump card to insist that he is always right. After exhorting wives to be subject to their husbands, Peter instructs husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” Do not miss out the word “likewise”! The husband is to also exercise humility towards his wife. That means to treat her with proper respect and honour, recognising the God-given role which God has given to her to go alongside him in achieving God’s will in their lives. A humble husband will not lord over his wife, but will nourish and cherish her, even as Christ does to the church (Ephesians 5:29). He will lovingly provide for her physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Dear husband and wife, be subject one to another (1 Peter 5:5).

Lastly, a humble spirit also means that we should learn to be good listeners. A fool does not like to hear but is quick to express his opinions. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” In contrast, a wise Christian is one who is “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Give the benefit of the doubt and listen carefully to what the other party has to say. After that, pray and evaluate the situation objectively with God’s Word for a fair and wise judgement. Then let all parties submit to God’s truth and obey the Scriptures.

Forgive One Another
One must never be too proud to apologise when he has committed a mistake. A conflict can end up causing more hurt than it ought to due to refusal to confess and repent of one’s sin. “Sorry” can sometimes be the hardest word to utter due to our pride and fear of shame. Nevertheless, a sincere apology can go a long way to resolving conflicts.

The offended party must also beware of a vengeful, bitter and unforgiving spirit. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” The other party may have caused you great hurt, but we must always accept his or her apology. The basis is the forgiveness of Christ. Did Christ not for-give us who are great sinners before Him? Therefore, we too must forgive others who have transgressed against us. How often must we forgive our spouse when he or she sin against us? Christ’s reply: until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). We who are forgiven must forgive.

When we refuse to forgive but hold a grudge and insist that the other party pay for his or her crimes, it is a manifestation of our pride and selfish desires. We are essentially saying that “it must be my way and no other way.” Be careful of such sinful anger, for it can fester and ruin your marital life. Forgive the offending party and let go of the grudge. Otherwise, the grudge may manifest itself later as pent up anger and caused great hurt to your relationship with your spouse.

A quarrelsome and unforgiving couple can also have a negative impact on their children. Will a child not feel discouraged when he sees his parents arguing and not forgiving one another? Will he not feel trapped in between when his parents are fighting a “cold and silent war” of grudge? The child may end up having a similar vengeful spirit and meting out his frustrations on others. On the other hand, when a couple resolves conflicts biblically, the child can learn what it means to forgive others. Just as how his parents make mistakes and are able to apologise to others for their sin, he too will learn to be humble and own up for his errors.

A blissful marital life is not a theory nor a pipedream. It can be a reality if husband and wife walk close to the Lord. Whenever conflicts arise, the couple should humble themselves before the Lord and each other. The offending party should apologise, while the offended should be quick to forgive. Be subject to one another and to the Word of God. This is the biblical way to resolve marital conflicts, and the pathway to a joyful marital journey.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor C. Chew