“Our purpose for writing The Seven Conflicts is to encourage couples everywhere to resume the race for their original goal – true intimacy.”  p. 288

One of the best books I’ve ever read on thinking about and handling conflict in marriage.

7conflictsbookcoverMarried 15 minutes or 15 years – I highly recommend this resource.  Tim and Joy Downs have ministered for Family Life, spoken at their conferences and written dozens of books for years.  They are a tremendously encouraging couple to listen to as well as read.  They combine their years of wisdom, lessons learned from the conflict in their own marriage and hilarious sense of humor to write this book on conflict.  They start out by walking you through the seven basic conflicts that all friction and fighting can be boiled down to:

Security | Responsibility | Openness | Loyalty | Caring | Connection | Order

For me, the chapters explaining each of these root conflicts moved a bit slow. This was probably my fault as I was desperate to get answers on how to start working to resolve these issues in my own life and marriage.  But these chapters are an important and good foundation before transitioning to the solutions.  The “What are we fighting for?” chapter was worth it’s weight in gold as it introduced to me a concept that I suspect is also found in Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage and Tripp’s What did you expect? books.  The concept is this: Conflict is not something to be avoided altogether as a foreign object, alien to good marital relationships.  Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, especially the martial one.  Instead of thinking that the presence of conflict means God has stopped working, you’re not moving forward in your marriage, and you need to do anything and everything to ‘get back on track’, we need to look at conflict as an essential part of what God is doing to us, through the relationships he has put us in.

God’s purpose in our lives as married people is not marital bliss. His main objective in His universe is not our happiness, but our holiness. And He uses conflict as the rock tumbler (p. 167) to slowly rub off the rough edges of our sin, as we bump up against each other in the covenant of marriage. Once you see conflict as a critical instrument in God’s hand, instead of an undesirable state of misery from which we need to flee, you begin to slowly change your reaction to it while you’re in the trenches of marriage.  This chapter helped my wife and I tremendously!

My second favorite part of the book is the last chapter called “Marriage to a difficult man – or woman”.  Man, can my wife relate. 😉  The summary statements in this final chapter were great.  The Downs’ do a great job at reminding us that we are all a little eccentric, quirky and difficult to be married to. The goal is not to eliminate all of our idiosyncrasies, but to slowly meet in the middle and balance each other out in marriage.  God uses the spouse He has given us to expose things in our hearts and lives that we would not have known were there if it had not been for the blessing of marriage.  Our reaction to our mate’s spotlight on our heart should not be one of defensiveness, but joy, as we see God’s work (albeit, not always pleasant) to make us more like Jesus through these conflicts.  If your goal is to eliminate all conflict in your marriage, the Downs’ say, they can’t help you.  Whew!

But if your goal is to better understand what conflict is, how it is used by God to grow us toward greater holiness and gain some practical ways to work through conflict in marriage, this book can help you.  Alot!