Handling Conflict in Marriage

Sibleys here.

We're happy to have ya here in our cozy virtual living room. Get your beverage of choice and let's learn and grow together.

hey hey!

Useful Resources:

free download

Guide to Studying Your Bible Theologically

Follow our tiktok

@thesibleys on TikTok for Bible Trivia, Theology Shorts, and more!

subscribe to our podcast

The One Degree Podcast



Digital library of theological trainings with guided notes

Exegetical Bible reading plans and studies with daily videos going deeper

Monthly Theology Couch Chat discussing a theological hot topic


Welcome back, One Degree fam! In this episode, we’re talking all about conflict in marriage and how to handle it. We are super excited to do this one because marriage is right up our alley. We love talking about marriage, seeking to grow in marriage, etc… Basically, everything about it. 

Marriage is such an incredible gift, but just like anything else must be nurtured.  

Conflict is Necessary

We firmly believe that conflict is a necessary component of marriage

Conflict itself isn’t inherently good or bad- how you handle it is. 

We once had a pastor who told a story: He had been married for a year and was bragging to a mentor about how he and his wife had never gotten into a fight, an argument, or even had any conflict at all. The mentor responded that it actually wasn’t a good thing and instructed him to get into an argument with his wife. 

When we don’t have conflict, it typically means that one person is either apathetic, scared to express opinions, isn’t being fully honest or transparent, or something else. 

We are not saying that conflict should involve yelling, screaming, name-calling, etc… That is why we are super excited for today’s episode: How can you make conflict something that enhances and strengthens your marriage relationship rather than something that hinders it?

We’ve got four main points that we will work through

1. Come up with a conflict plan.

You may be thinking… whaaaat?!?! This seems ridiculous. It feels too formal. It’s stiff. 

One of the things we firmly believe about marriage is that the more intentionality that you have, the better. This is a step to be more intentional. 

What is a conflict plan?

It is a step-by-step guide for how you have the ideal conflict, argument, or disagreement ready to go. 


  1. First, we stop and pray when we sense tensions rising.
  2. Second, we remind each other that we are on the same team (this is super important).
  3. Third: Each of us explains what the most important issue/problem/frustration is without being interrupted. Then the other person does it. After we explain, the other person explains it back in their own words to make sure they understood it properly.
  4. Fourth: We start the resolution process. We seek solutions to the issue, we talk through it, we seek to compromise, etc. (give a practical example of watching too many sports games) 

Having a plan sets out the ideal conflict. That way, when conflict doesn’t go well, we can ask what happened. Did we not follow the plan? Was the plan not sufficient enough? Do we need to change or adapt the plan? Do we need to come up with a new one?

we used to say the person least frustrated initiated prayer. But then both of us would think the other person should initiate. So now we just say I (Nathaniel) have the responsibility to initiate but if I am too heated, forgetful, or bitter  Xan swoops in and saves the day. 

2) Practice Soft Start-Up

John Gottman (world-renowned marriage and family therapist) states that how a conflict starts determines how a conflict ends 87% or 91% of the time. If it starts poorly, more than likely the conflict will end poorly. 

What does it mean for a conflict to start well and to have a soft start-up? 

There is that famous saying that how you say something is just as important as what you say. Soft start-up focuses on how you bring up an issue.

When you are bringing up an issue, focus on how the situation makes you feel. Focus on “I” statements instead of “you” statements. And focus on the specific situation at hand (not a generalization). Give a reasonable solution.


Nathaniel is sitting on the couch scrolling while Xan is doing dishes. 

A poor start-up would be: “Get off your lazy butt and start helping. You clearly see me working hard and are just ignoring me. You never help around the house and treat me like I’m some sort of maid. I wish I had a husband that wasn’t so lazy, unhelpful, and ungrateful.” 

A soft start-up: “I feel really tired and hurt when I am doing the dishes by myself while you’re on your phone. I would be really grateful if you helped me out. Would you mind helping me for ten minutes and then we can sit and chill together after?”

This takes practice but the more you focus on doing this the more natural it becomes.  

3) Practice active listening

This boils down to listening to understand your spouse rather than to respond to what they are saying. 

If you noticed, we have this component in our argument plan. After one person explains what the biggest issue is to them, the other one explains it back in their own words and asks if they understood it properly. 

Too often, as our spouse is talking, our inner lawyer comes out and we are building our case for why they are wrong and we are right as they are talking.

If you are super eager to give a rebuttal and can’t wait until they are done so you can talk, etc. then you are probably not practicing active listening. 

4) Focus on your own sins more than your spouse’s sins.

In the words of Jesus, seek to take the log out of your own eye before you seek to take the twig out of your spouse’s eye. 

The longer you live with someone, the more prone you are to take for granted their strengths and become hyper-focused on their weaknesses. 

Combat this by regularly thinking about and expressing the ways you are grateful for your spouse. Regularly ask your spouse how you can serve them better and how you can grow as a person and as a spouse (something we do in our weekly Sunday meetings). 

Sometimes when we hear stuff like this, we can become discouraged (if my spouse doesn’t want to develop a conflict plan or if they don’t practice soft start-up or active listening.) The beautiful thing about these things is that you can still do them even if your spouse doesn’t. 

One Degree Shift

Come up with a conflict plan with your spouse. If they don’t want to do that, start focusing on yourself, soft start-up, and active listening. 

Want to Stay a Little Longer?

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We're the Sibleys.

Welcome to our cozy virtual couch on the internet. Our biggest prayer is that you'd feel welcomed into an honest space to be real, and ultimately, to grow to be a more faithful follower of Jesus.

We truly believe the Gospel transforms every area of our lives – our relationships, work, parenting, school, and everything in between – and our heart is to have conversations and make resources that equip you and support you in that transformation. 

Grab a cozy drink, pick your favorite spot on the couch, and stay a while. 


Your new straight-shooting pals and encouragers.