Becoming More Like Christ in Your Marriage through the Sanctifying Power of Conflict

Rather than viewing conflict as a hindrance to harmony, Christian couples are called to embrace it as a discipleship tool that shapes us into the image of Christ.

Speaker/Coach/Podcast Host
Updated Apr 04, 2024
Becoming More Like Christ in Your Marriage through the Sanctifying Power of Conflict

We need to talk.” This is the one phrase that causes nearly every husband to run for the hills. Can’t you hear the tension in that statement? The fact is most men (and women, too) assume the “need” to talk is laced with conflict. And the majority of people are conflict-avoidant, hence the mad dash from imminent danger. It’s the “flight” response in the fight, flight, or freeze method we learned about in middle school Science. The problem with running from marriage conflict, though, is we lose the benefit of maturing in our Christian faith and growing in our marriage. Rather than viewing conflict as a hindrance to harmony, Christian couples are called to embrace it as a discipleship tool that shapes us into the image of Christ.

Harness Humility

Marriage will test your humility like nothing else. Ever heard the marriage joke, “My wife says I'm a know-it-all. I told her I already knew that”? Pride constantly beckons us, especially when we’re in conflict. We see things our way. We want things to go as we planned. We believe our answer is right. One of Jesus’s most attractive qualities was his humility. The Bible says, “Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being . . . he humbled himself in obedience to God” (Philippians 2:7-8a, NLT). Where are you holding on to your “privilege” in marriage instead of lowering yourself in obedience to God? Is it more important to be right or righteous? You decide. 

Practice Patience

Patience is a virtue. It is also a fruit of the Spirit that is cultivated through the climate of conflict. When you don’t get your way right away, you should exercise patience towards your spouse instead of succumbing to frustration, irritation, or impatience. Colossians 3:12 encourages believers to "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (emphasis mine). Patience is a gift you give your spouse, and it maintains unity and peace within your marriage.

Develop Discernment

Some couples believe the less conflict they have in marriage, the healthier the marriage. However, this is not so. I often say that if a couple isn’t having conflict, someone is lying. Surely, internal conflicts are happening that may never see the light of day. Masking them only leads to bitterness and, eventually, resentment. 

The goal in marriage isn’t uniformity but unity. God does not want you to be a carbon copy of your spouse, his ideas, personality, or even preferences. The beautiful thing about marriage is when two very different people choose to live and love in unity. 

As conflict arises, you develop discernment about what truly matters and what (or who) is threatening the unity in your marriage. I often tell my marriage coaching clients, “Your spouse is not the problem; the problem is the problem.” We need discernment to see all the ways the Enemy is trying to wreak havoc in our homes. We need discernment to understand the root of the conflict instead of focusing on the symptoms of the conflict. Praying together when conflict arises is one of the best ways to develop discernment and foster stronger unity in your marriage. 

Learn to Listen

Most people can hear, but many do not listen. Listening is a learned skill. The problem is most people listen to respond, not to understand. Jesus was an extraordinary listener. He listened to his disciples’ fears. He listened to the story of the woman at the well. He listened to the questions asked of him by the Pharisees. And he listens to you and me. When we seek to first understand our spouse, even in conflict, we are acting like Christ. Proverbs 18:13 reminds us, “To answer before listening— that is folly and shame” (NIV). The next time conflict arises in your marriage, listen to understand where your spouse is coming from. Listen to find common ground. Listen to show grace where needed. Listen as Jesus did. 

Embrace Empathy

Empathy is a buzzword in culture today, but it’s also integrated with the life of Christ. Jesus showed great empathy for us—quite literally putting himself in our place. As conflict arises in your marriage, you will have the opportunity to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. How must this feel for him/her? The key to genuine empathy is not asking, “What would I do if I were my spouse?” But rather asking, “What would my spouse do if they were in that situation?” 

Empathy isn’t about centering yourself but about centering the other person. It’s about putting their perspective and feelings on display. Empathy is the gateway to compassion, connection, and care in your marriage. Instead of avoiding conflict or suppressing emotions, embrace empathy by engaging your spouse in thought-provoking, genuine, and curious questions.  This builds trust and provides a safe environment for your spouse to be vulnerable and for you to model Christ.

Conflict often arises from misunderstandings or differing perspectives. This is why I created “Conversation Starters for Couples in Conflict” as a way to help couples de-escate arguments and find common ground.   Instead of focusing solely on proving your point, prioritize seeking understanding and respect for your spouse's viewpoint. Proverbs 18:2 reminds us that "a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." By actively practicing humility, patience, discernment, listening, and empathy, your marriage will be strengthened and you will better reflect the love, forgiveness, and grace of Christ to a world desperate to see his image reflected in genuine devotion.


Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/PeopleImages

Dana Che Williams BoDana Che Williams is a speaker, marriage/relationship coach, and the host of the Rebuilding US podcast, where she helps people uncomplicate relationships and build deeper connections. She is also a devoted daughter and friend of God and serves as a Teaching Pastor at a multi-site, multi-ethnic church in Virginia Beach, VA. In groups, large or small, Dana's mission is singular: to help lead people into more fruitful and connected relationships with the Lord and each other. On the podcast, she is known for her graceful candor, humor, and encouraging yet challenging advice. Dana holds a B.A. in communication from Regent University. She has a fierce passion for fashion and a fiercer passion for truth. She shares her life with Shaun, her childhood sweetheart and husband of twenty-four years, their four amazing children, and their “multi-cultural” dog in beautiful Virginia Beach, VA. Connect with her on social media @mrsdanache and find helpful relationship resources on her website at


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