“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.

By Celina Haupt, women’s coordinator at Concordia Seminary, Families in Transition Team

Conflict in marriage

Fight, flight or freeze?

When we feel emotionally attacked or threatened, a large “DANGER” or “WARNING” sign begins to flash in our heads along with a loud buzzing sound.

We immediately look for a way to protect ourselves. We either fight back or we flee the situation either physically or emotionally.

It’s not a bad idea in theory, right? It’s a way of self-preservation.

But what if we are functioning this way in our marriage?

Giving in to the fight or flight response with our spouse is not just a bad habit, it eventually creates a wedge in the one flesh that God has united.

So how can we do it differently?

We will never eliminate conflict in our marriages. I mean, I am a sinful gal who is married to a wonderful, but sinful guy.

Conflict is going to happen. We can begin to approach marital conflicts differently because we have a Helper in the Holy Spirit living and working in us.

We can also ask ourselves three simple questions:

Who is my enemy here?

When I stop, breathe and ask myself this question, the loud danger sounds in my head begin to quiet down and my heart begins to soften because deep down I know that my husband is not my enemy.

First Peter 5:8 tells us,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Peter is not talking about our spouses in this verse; he is talking about Satan himself. Satan and human sin are the enemies we are actually up against in our marriages.

So, let’s call them out, not our spouses.

Do I need to take a break from this conflict?

Now, to clarify, I’m not talking about the Ross and Rachel from “Friends” kind of, “We were on a BREAK” break.

But seriously, it is OK to take a 30-minute time-out to pray, collect your thoughts and regroup before continuing the discussion.

James 1:19–20 reminds us,

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

So when my thoughts are racing so fast that my mouth is out of control, it is a good time to press pause and give a set time to come back to the discussion.

What is my sin in this?

I really hate this one. It is so much easier to see my spouse’s sin than to dig deep and look at my own muck.

But in most day-to-day struggles, my own sin has played some part in the conflict.

First John 1:9 says:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Could anything be more practical for marriages than this verse?

Christ gives us full forgiveness, which frees us up to forgive our spouse. Being the first one to confess isn’t losing the battle — it’s winning for the marriage!

Heavenly Father, conflicts are uncomfortable because they were not a part of Your original plan. Forgive us and send the Holy Spirit to help us approach difficult situations in our marriage and in the world around us. Help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” devotions and prayers will be released Monday mornings on the LCMS Facebook and Twitter pages. Church Worker Wellness devotions will also be archived online.

LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to workerwellness@lcms.org.