I was struck by a statistic I heard at a seminar once concerning unresolved conflict in marriages. The statistic was this:
Couples who judge their marriage as unhappy are not in agreement 69% of the time.
Well, I thought, that makes sense. How can we have a good marriage if we can’t agree with one another? But the surprising statistic I heard was this:
Couples who judge their marriage as happy are not in agreement 69% of the time.
Wow, if it’s exactly the same, what then is the difference?
I thought about it for a while and it occurred to me that it must directly relate to our perception in a conflict. Or probably more accurately it relates to my belief about my spouse, during the time I am in conflict with her.
If I believe that she is not for me, or more harshly, that she is against me – I am likely to view the lack of agreement as compounding evidence that the relationship is in trouble.
If, on the other hand, I can remember that this person that I love, and loves me in return, is just not in agreement with me on whatever the current issue, I am able to see the relationship in a much better light.
It really comes down to assuming positive intent on the part of the other person (innocent until proven guilty). As I like to tell my wife Nan when things get edgy between the two of us:
Just that simple statement sometimes brings enough perspective for us to get through the impasse. Of course, I also have to check my attitude and make sure I have positive intent.
But it is true that many things in our relationship just don’t get resolved. When it comes to money I am a saver by nature. She is less conservative – and that tension will always exist. Nan is always ready to say ‘yes’ to a social engagement, whereas I want to have time to think about it first before making a decision. I could list many other instances where we are not in agreement. But we don’t assume that the other person is trying to make our life difficult. We just have different preferences.
In the Bible, Paul admonishes us to come to agreement, and I believe the best way is to make compromises and try to work with each other the best that we can.
Philippians 2:2 (NLT) Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.