Recognise your spouse’s value

Recognise your spouse’s value

Dr. Greg Smalley

Honor isn’t based on behavior or subject to emotion. You grant your spouse value whether they want it or deserve it.

The primary attitude that will help your spouse feel emotionally safe is when he believes that you understand how incredibly valuable he is. That is the essence of honor. Honor is a decision to view our spouse as a priceless treasure – a person of high worth and value. This is what King Solomon encouraged as well: “A man’s greatest treasure is his wife” (Proverbs 18:22).

Honor isn’t based on behavior or subject to emotion. You grant your spouse value whether they want it or deserve it. Honor is a decision you make and a gift you give. This is exactly what the apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians to do when he wrote, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10).

God has made it resplendently clear that my wife is valuable. Look at some of the verses that show how much our heavenly Father values and cherishes us:

“For you were made in my image.” (Genesis 1:27)
“I chose you when I planned creation.” (Ephesians 1:11)
“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
“For you are my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5)

It’s amazing to think that the God of this universe considers my wife His treasured possession. That’s powerful! However, when Erin and I are in the midst of an argument and my heart closes, the first thing to go is my awareness of her incredible value.

And in those moments, when I fail to see her as my heavenly Father sees His daughter, I’m not safe. When I lose sight of her value, when I’m not cherishing her, I’m more apt to react and treat her in dishonoring ways. Then Erin has every right to put up a wall and protect herself.

I watched the power of recognizing my wife’s value this past Thanksgiving while at my parents’ home in Branson, Mo. One of the things that I appreciate most about my parents is the honesty of their marriage. They’ve never claimed to have a “perfect” marriage and aren’t afraid to disagree.

At one point, my parents got into a huge argument. They were so frustrated that they each ran off to a different part of the house. I let the situation calm down for a few minutes before I knocked on my father’s office door.

“Come in,” he reluctantly replied.

As I walked into his office, I found my dad sitting behind his computer reading a document titled “Why Norma Is So Valuable.” (My mom’s name is Norma, just in case you were wondering.)

“What are you reading?” I asked.

“Well,” my dad began, “a number of years ago I started a list of why your mom is so valuable. So when I’m upset with her, or when we’ve had a fight, I’ve learned that instead of sitting here thinking about how hurt or frustrated I am at your mother, I need to make myself read through this list.”

The document contained literally hundreds of words and phrases describing my mom’s value. It was amazing.

“When I first start to read through the list, I’m still upset,” explained my dad. “I usually get to the first three or four items and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ or ‘This one is no longer valid!’ or ‘I’m definitely going to erase that one.’ But then the farther down I read, the faster I realize that you have an amazing mom.”

This is the best idea I’ve ever heard for recognizing someone’s value. Talk about creating safety. It’s also what my father does to get his heart back open. Luke 12:34 explains why it is so powerful: “For where your treasure is, so there will your heart be also.” In other words, your heart will be open to what you value. One way to keep your heart open and your spouse feeling safe with you is to focus on her value.

We can create this honor list for our spouse as well. Take several minutes to list all the reasons why your spouse is so valuable. For example: a character trait, faith pattern, values, morals, parenting skills, spirituality, the roles he or she plays that you appreciate (worker, friend, parent, sibling, son), personality characteristic, how he or she treats you, etc.

And don’t keep the amazing list to yourself – share it with your spouse. Let her know that you recognize her value. When this happens, not only does your spouse benefit, but you are positively impacted as well.


Adapted from Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, published by Howard Books. Copyright © 2012 by Greg Smalley. All rights reserved.

The hidden value of conflict

The hidden value of conflict

by Dr Greg Smalley

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Rather than making it our goal to resolve arguments, we must learn how to manage our conflicts.
Although conflict is unavoidable, it can also bring amazing benefits to a relationship.

Watch how this happens.

Murfreesboro, Ark., is home to Crater of Diamonds State Park, a site where the public can search for diamonds. For a small fee, visitors can dig for diamonds and keep whatever they find.

The park is located above the eroded surface of an ancient volcanic pipe. This “crater” is actually a 37-acre open field that is plowed from time to time to bring diamonds and other gemstones to the surface. I will never forget my first impression of this place. It wasn’t pretty. This volcanic field is a treeless wasteland of dirt and rocks and, apparently, diamonds. At first glance, it seems impossible that there could be anything valuable hidden beneath the ancient volcanic dirt.

This is actually a perfect picture of the hidden value of conflict. On the surface, conflict is not pretty. For some, it feels rocky and treacherous – full of tension and anger. Other couples experience conflict more as a distant wasteland – filled with avoidance and withdrawal. Either way, most couples experience conflict as frustrating and painful, something they should definitely avoid. However, as the person who found a 40.23-carat diamond at the state park discovered, conflict is loaded with potential treasures as well.

Most people, for good reason, view conflict in a negative light. They believe that the arguments and angry interactions between a husband and wife are not just stressful but unhealthy. In the end, many couples see conflict as a sign that their relationship is in trouble. This belief is understandable yet unfortunate. Conflict is not negative; instead, it’s an inevitable part of marriage that will be managed in either a healthy or an unhealthy way.

I prefer the word “managing” over “resolving” conflicts. Rather than making it our goal to resolve arguments, we must learn how to manage conflict.

The good news is that if we manage conflict in a healthy way, like Crater of Diamonds State Park, it is loaded with treasures to be unearthed. Marriage expert John Gottman addressed this issue in his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail:
If there is one lesson I have learned from my years of research it is that a lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship. Many couples tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness and believe the claim “we never fight” is a sign of marital health. But I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.

In the same way that the Grand Canyon expands as the Colorado River fights its way through, healthy conflict helps a marriage to grow and evolve. If handled right, arguments have the potential to create greater understanding, trust, and connection. Many people fail to see the true value of disagreement because it’s housed in something unpleasant and unglamorous – like that wasteland of ancient volcanic dirt. Most couples fail to notice the diamonds lying just under the surface, waiting to be discovered.

Here are a few of the diamonds buried within healthy conflict:

  • Brings problems into the light and helps couples face their issues instead of denying or avoiding them
  • Helps you to better appreciate the differences between you and your spouse
  • Gives you a chance to care for and empathize with your spouse
  • Provides an opportunity to break old, ineffective patterns
  • Can restore unity and oneness
  • Humbles us and God gives his grace to the humble (James 4:6)
  • Gives you great insight into your own personal issues
  • Helps you learn how to anticipate and resolve future conflicts
  • Brings you closer together as you listen, understand and 
validate each other
  • Provides a great source of information. For example, conflict can reveal the need to spend more time together
  • Can raise you to higher levels of marital satisfaction every time you manage the conflict well

So what is the real value of conflict? If we compared each potential conflict benefit on that previous list to a 2-carat diamond, the most valuable aspect of relational disagreements would be like the 40-carat diamond discovered at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.


Adapted from Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, published by Howard Books. Copyright © 2012 by Greg Smalley. All rights reserved.

Keeping the Peace at any price?

Keeping the peace at any price?

by Dr. Greg Smalley

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If we avoid conflict or pretend it doesn’t exist, the greater the problem will become.

Maybe your marriage is riddled with conflict today, or perhaps you never fight. Whatever your past or current experiences, how do you perceive conflict? Are these images positive or negative? Conflict has the potential for beauty, but at the same time, there is also a “beast” lurking in it if we mishandle our conflicts.

In an unhealthy sense, if we avoid conflict, pretend it doesn’t exist, gossip to others about it, get angry, or intimidate others into doing what we want, the greater the problem will become, and the greater the relational damage will be. Couples who do not work out their differences and manage their conflict issues are at risk for divorce.

The apostle Paul recognized this when he wrote, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

Many couples hate to confront disagreements and hurts because they’re afraid of rocking the boat, so they choose to keep the peace at any price and sweep their issues under the rug. However, this strategy usually does not resolve the problem, because suppressed conflict is always buried alive, and it often festers until it becomes a much bigger problem. In the end, buried issues end up exploding like a massive volcano, leaving our spouse and family members in its wake of destruction.

In Matthew 5:23–24 we are encouraged to deal with relationship problems so that our hearts will be right when we worship the Lord. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

The difficulty with mishandled conflict is that it creates an unsafe environment. Spouses feel like they are walking on a thin layer of volcanic crust, while underneath rages a river of molten lava ready to consume those trapped nearby. And when people feel unsafe, their heart closes and they disconnect. This is why, when asked about divorce, Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard” (Matthew 19:8). A hard heart is the kiss of death to a marriage, and that is exactly what prolonged, unhealthy conflict creates: a hardened heart!

Indeed, not confronting and managing conflict often causes long-term resentment, which eventually destroys feelings of love in a marriage. The bottom line is that your marriage may not last if you do not work through issues.

Let’s face it, few people are genuinely excited about conflict. And yet it’s essential that we recognize conflict for what it is: an unavoidable and potentially beneficial part of being in a relationship with another human being.

Conflict is inevitable. Any person involved in a sustained relationship is bound to experience conflict with that other person eventually. It’s a part of getting to know and adjusting to a person, his or her habits, values, and ways of functioning. Two people will never have the same expectations, thoughts, opinions or needs.

Absence of conflict suggests the presence of deadened emotions or a hardened heart, or that one spouse is being suppressed or giving in to his or her mate. This might be acceptable over the short term, but over the long term, it’s very dangerous to the marriage. Anger is likely to build to the point where the conflict, when it surfaces, will be more intense than it needed to be.


Adapted from Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, published by Howard Books. Copyright © 2012 by Greg Smalley. All rights reserved.

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It’s Unfair Not to Fight

It’s Unfair Not to Fight

by Matthew D. Turvey

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Avoiding conflict in marriage isn’t fair to yourself or your spouse. Learning to embrace and resolve conflict healthily leads to a better marriage.

Remember June and Ward Cleaver – that oh-so-happy couple that chuckled through life’s lessons with nary a care? The couple that never seemed to have any conflict? Never seemed to fight? Gee, Beav, weren’t they happy?

June and Ward were my parents. They never seemed to disagree, to argue or to have any conflict whatsoever. I remember hearing my parents have a serious disagreement only one or two times during my formative years. If you grew up in a family where fighting was the norm and days of peace were something only the neighbors experienced, you may be jealous.

There are two sides to this coin, however. I came out of adolescence and into adulthood fearing conflict. I detested conflict. I didn’t have a clue how to handle it. Conflict brought up emotions I didn’t know how to handle. I had no backbone in my personal relationships – all because I didn’t want any conflict. I ran scared.

Fast forward to marriage. God placed a wonderful woman in my life who was much less noticeably afflicted with conflict-aphobia. True to past form, I spent the first years of our marriage trying to avoid conflict and fighting. I hated the emotions dredged up by conflict, and I didn’t know what to do when my wife brought up issues that were difficult for me to deal with. I wasted huge amounts of time avoiding conflict, hiding from it and trying to sweep it under the rug without dealing with it. I was doing all this while thinking it was best for me, best for my wife and best for our marriage.

However, instead of having less and less conflict (my inherent goal in avoiding it), my wife and I started having more frequent, more intense and more completely unsolvable conflicts. The very conflict I was running away from kept coming right back at me. I was running down a mountain away from an avalanche that wasn’t slowing down.

I didn’t allow my wife to have any negative emotions – or at least not to let me know about them. Through my words and actions, she understood I couldn’t be bothered – or wouldn’t be bothered – with conflict.

I was communicating to her, “If you have a problem with something in our relationship, don’t tell me about it. It’s your issue. You figure it out, and then tell me about it with a big fake smile on your face. Don’t tell me about your pain. I don’t want to know that you’re feeling pushed out of my life because of my utter lack of willingness to deal with reality.”

Our marriage arrived at a tipping point. Something had to give. The “my way or the highway” approach wasn’t working. My wife couldn’t go on with not being able to express herself to me. I couldn’t go on hiding and avoiding the conflict gurgling right under the surface. I was destroying my marriage in my short-sighted efforts to make it my version of “better.”

It was at this point of hurt that a series of events and connections with godly people led to me a life-changing revelation. I realized it was unfair not to fight. How selfish and arrogant of me to think that marriage had to be my way or the highway – especially when my way wasn’t God’s way.

For too many years I had been cheating my wife out of the chance to be heard. I was squashing vitality and life out of her and our marriage without even knowing it.

So I began to change. I began to accept that conflict done right is a wonderful thing. It’s a crucible through which we take our relationship to a deeper level. We learn something about each other that lets us love deeper. When we accept our own shortcomings and the faults of our spouse and we work through them honestly, we get an incredible opportunity to extend God’s grace to another person.

I soon realized I had also been cheating myself out of a huge part of marriage. I had not allowed myself to experience the emotions I was so scared of. When I paused and felt – really felt – the emotions that previously terrified me, I grew in ways I didn’t imagine possible. Taking off my emotional sunglasses led me to see the world, my wife and my marriage in a full spectrum of new clarity. Life wasn’t so one-sided anymore.

Maybe you find yourself in a marriage where your spouse “can’t do” conflict. Or maybe it’s you that can’t do conflict. It’s not fair to continue on this path.

Remember a few key principles to guide you through the process of fighting fair:

Emotions are nothing to avoid or be afraid of. Emotions just are. God gave them to us. Let’s celebrate them in all their messiness, complexity, joy and pain.
Emotions are signposts that help you navigate the journey of marriage. Embrace the emotional expressions of your spouse and look for the message behind the words. What does your spouse’s anger mean about their current experience and satisfaction in marriage? Learn from these emotions.
You make a better marriage when you work through conflict and honestly confront emotions. It may not sound macho, but my ability to cry with my wife and to better understand her pain led to increased intimacy in other areas of our relationship.

I’m not trying to be Ward Cleaver in marriage anymore. My wife and I no longer avoid conflict in our marriage. We see conflict as a chance to find the deep and rich rewards that come from living examined lives. We’ve learned to fight for our marriage – which is only fair.


Copyright © 2008, Matthew D. Turvey. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.