Handling Perpetual Marital Conflict

Marital Conflict or Understanding What We are Arguing About


            All marriages have conflict.  It is a mistake to try avoiding conflict.  In fact, avoiding conflict is not genuine and can lead to greater problems down the road.  The real issue is how to handle conflict in a way that provides a win/win or mutually satisfying solution for both spouses.  Conflict handled well can be very rewarding and lead to a very healthy marriage.

            Authors Tim and Joy Downs suggest that there are four types of conflict (Downs, 2003).  First, couples who are just married tend to settle arguments quickly by simply deferring to each other.  This is the “have it you way” method of handling conflict.  After a while couples grow tired to giving in which leads to the “have it my way” style of conflict.  They still want peace—but they slowly realize that there is such a thing as “peace at any price.”  Because a spouse may feel taken advantage of this means of resolving conflict is very assertive and thus very tiring.  When couples tire out from butting heads this lead to the third phase that is the “have it OUR way” phase.  The third phase is a state of compromise and negotiation when couples begin to realize that if they can just put their heads together instead of banging them together, they might be able to work out their differences.  In this phase, there is listening, positive discussion and compromise.  This allows a couple to experience the fourth phase, which is the “have it any way you want” phase.  This is the time when the couple has negotiated and compromised on an exhausting number of minor preferences and desires.  At this point, the couple will need to recognize that there is a difference between resolvable conflicts and conflicts that are perpetual. This means they will be a part of their lives forever, in some form or another.  Gottman estimates that almost 70 percent of marital conflicts are perpetual.  He goes on to predict that only three out of ten marital disagreements will have a tidy solution (Gottman, 1999).

            Perpetual conflicts are underlying issues that are the root cause of most marriage conflict.  The seven conflicts are security, loyalty, responsibility, caring, order, openness, and connection.  Here is how this works out.  Disagreements over money are often not about money, but about security.  In-law arguments are really questions of loyalty and whose side you are on.  When you are concerned about what others think conflict around responsibility occurs.  The secret to caring is found in awareness and initiative.  Conflicts over order have to do with the structure of the marriage and who is in charge.  Connection is effected by the various ways we communicate.  Knowing more about these seven conflicts help to identify where spouses stand in relation to each of the seven issues and to each other.

Works Cited

Downs, T. and J. (2003). The Seven Conflicts. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Gottman, J. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Three Rivers Press.


Ministry Philosophy and Therapeutic Approach

Ministry Philosphy

“Provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isa. 61:3)

I believe that God’s story for humanity is made of four key parts: creation, fall, redemption, restoration (and ultimately consummation).  It is important to assist others to find restoration to the image of God (the imago dei). God’s image exists in every human being and explains why all of us know how to love and be generous, creative, kind, and caring.  Creation shows us how things ought to be.  “Our fascination with beauty, hunger for relationships, bent toward goodness and justice, and longing for connection with a transcendent God are all clues about our origins.”  Christ’s death and resurrection is not only meant to save people from something, but he wanted to save people to something.  God longs to restore people to be the “oaks of righteousness” he has designed them to be with the ability to “display his splendor.” These ideas are hard-wired in every individual (Gen. 1:26-27).  Sometimes people lose their way or find their ability to reflect God’s image effectively broken and unable to recover on their own what was lost.

Therapeutic Approach

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Col. 1:28)

Because of this brokenness, it becomes necessary for people to face the nature of their falleness so that they become aware of their need to change.  This may be done alone, but often this is best accomplished with the assistance of another person such as a counselor.  A counselor gently confronts a person with loving concern to reveal and encourage change.  Once they have this insight they experience first order change.  This simply means they are aware that change is required for them to be set free.  During first order change a person may also be aware of what changes must take place in order for them to experience wholeness.  However, insight or first order change is only the first step.

The next step in an effective therapeutic approach is to effect second order change.  Second order change means that there is a reversal of direction, new way of doing things, and a true transformation of thinking or behavior.  These methods include acquiring various therapeutic skills that effectively equip a client to move from first order change to second order change.  This variety of methods and tools is always based on the truth of God’s Word.

The following statements may summarize my ministry philosophy and therapeutic approach.  My goal with each client is to:

  • Enlighten to reveal first order change
  • Empower to produce second order change
  • Equip to provide tools for effective change

Choice Theory and Christian Worldview

Integration of a Christian Worldview

Reality Therapy or Choice Theory

What is reality therapy? This therapy was founded by William Glasser during the 1980’s and fully developed by 1996.  Reality therapy or choice theory proposes that we are not born blank slates waiting to be externally motivated by forces in the world around us. Rather, we are born with five genetically encoded needs:

  • Survival
    (includes nourishment, shelter, and sex).
  • Loveand belonging (this includes groups as well as families or loved ones).
  • Poweror achievement (which includes achievement and feeling worthwhile as
    well as winning).
  • Freedomor independence (includes independence, autonomy, and your own ‘space’).
  • Funor joy (includes pleasure and enjoyment).

The PREMISE of reality or choice therapy is because we are by nature social creatures we
need to both receive and give love.

The FOUNDATION of reality or choice therapy is THE NEED TO LOVE AND TO BELONG. Whether we know it or not we are acting to satisfy one of the above needs.

This is paralleled in the life of a believer by different means:

  • One another verses
  • Paul’s encouragement to churches and Timothy
  • Jesus’ encouragement to Peter

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all
have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
(Rom. 12:4, 5)

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect themature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph.

An assumption is that our brain functions as a control system by continually monitoring our feelings to determine how well we are doing in our lifelong effort to satisfy these needs.  If one of these needs is unsatisfied, we will struggle in life.

What is a way in which reality therapy or choice theory helps someone with this struggle?

Every total behavior is our best attempt to get what we want to satisfy our needs.

People choose misery by developing “paining” behaviors even when these efforts are ineffective.  A client must learn to take responsibility because we are responsible for how we feel.

Robert Wubbolding in 2007 added a new idea to choice theory (the WDEP system) that suggested that behavior is like a language that gives opportunity for dialogue with life circumstances.  The purpose of behavior is to influence the world to get what we want.

Therapists ask clients what messages they are sending to others:

  1. What message do you want others to get?
  2. What message are others gettingwhether or not you intended to send them?

The basic axiom of choice theory is:  “The only person you can control is yourself.”

A practical application of reality theory simply stated is changing what we do is
the key to changing how we feel and to getting what we want.

Various scriptures illustrate this principle
Takingcare of the widows in Acts 6

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be
rewarded according to their own labor.
(1 Corinthians 3:8)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ
God forgave you.
(Eph. 4:32)

The Application of the Choice Theory by



  • If you were the person that you wish you were, what kind of person would you be?
    What would your family be like if your wants and their wants matched?
    What would you be doing if you were living as you want to
    Do you really want to change your life?
    Whatis it you want that you do not seem to be getting from life?
  • What do you think stops you frommaking the changes you would like?
    What are you doing now”
    What did you actually do this past week?
    What did you want to do differently this past week?
    What stopped you from doing what you said you wanted to do?
  • What will you do tomorrow?
    Is what you are doing helping or hurting you?
    Is what you are doing now what you want to be doing?
    Is your behavior working for you?
    Is there a healthy congruence between what you are doing and what you believe?
    Is what you are doing against the rules?
    Is what you want realistic or attainable?
    Does it help you to look at it that way?
    How committed are you to the therapeutic process and to changing your life?
  • After carefully examining what you want, does it appear to be in your best interests and in the best interests ofothers?

  • Attainable
    Controlled by the planner
    Committed to and continuously done

Comparisons to Christianity

Areas in common

  1. Human responsibility
  2. Limited freedom: influenced but not determined by the past
  3. People need a sense of belonging and purpose
  4. People are holistic not fragmented
  5. People must face life courageously
  6. People function as mperfect beings in an imperfect world
  7. People are both cognitive and behavioral
  8. People have both a personal and social responsibility

Areas of Contrast

  1. Humanistic emphasis: limited view of man’s evil and falleness
  2. No formal role for God in the change process
  3. Human-centered moral system
  4. No need for repentance and salvation
  5. Emphasizes law not grace (traditionally) May lack patience
  6. Sees all problems as the results of not taking personal responsibility

A Study of Freedom

A Study of Freedom from Luke 15

WESUD: Wounding, Entanglement, Sin, Ungodly Beliefs, Demons

The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)—Wounding

The coin was lost through no fault of its own. This is a Type A trauma caused by absence. The act of being lost is traumatic and normally leaves a wound, memories, resulting scars and a warped interpretation of what happened that builds in basic lies.

Powerlessness—“I am a helpless victim of others and can’t protect myself.”
Fear—“The world and people in it are not safe for me.”
Personal Tainting—“I am scarred and ruined forever by what has happened.”
Hopelessness—“It is terrible and will never get better.”
Confusion—“I cannot find peace and understanding in my world.”

Shame—“I am sinful and dirty and deserve punishment.”
Rejection—“The ones I need reject me because I am not worth loving.”
Identity Invalidation—“Who I am is not right nor worth paying attention to.”
Disaffirmation—“I am worthless, unattractive and stupid and deserve to ignored.”
Abandonment—“Those I love and need will abandon me.”

The place where loss occurs is usually dark, hidden, probably filthy and unclean. God as a woman (a gentle nurture, which is characteristic of the Holy Spirit), lights a lamp (brings revelation of truth), sweeps the house clean (removes the filth and pain), finds the coin and rejoices over it with friends and neighbors (restoration).

The primary ministry approach for a lost coin (wounding) is to release wound-based lies compassionately and gently. It is to:
1. help the person define their pain and the lies they believe,
2. hear truth and release the lies,
3. grant forgiveness as appropriate and
4. bless

The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4-7)—Entanglement

The sheep wandered from the flock, perhaps through a combination of ignorance, naïve rebellion or enticed curiosity. It gets lost and for some reason cannot make its way back, perhaps entangled and ensnared as the old classic picture portrays.

The good shepherd (Jesus) knows the sheep is missing and places very great value on it. He leaves the rest and searches for the sheep, places it on His shoulders (takes the weight or guilt Himself without recrimination) and rejoices over it with friends and neighbors (restoration). Notice he does not blame or chastise the sheep; the entanglement itself did the teaching and warning.

Emotional-spiritual entanglements include ungodly soul-ties, binding self-vows, false covenants and agreements with darkness, self and external curses, generational iniquity, unforgiveness and its consequences, dabbling in the dark side, etc.

The primary ministry approach for a lost sheep (entanglement) is to:
1. recognize the nature and source of the entanglement
2. renounce it
3. let Jesus take or bear it
4. replace it with truth and a right agreement with God
5. bless

The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24)—Sin

The Prodigal Son openly rebelled, lived in sin and suffered torment. He lost his perspective, his “senses.” He went farther than he planned, stayed longer than he wanted, and it cost him more than he could afford. It ruined him.

His Father (God the Father) ran to him, kissed him, covered (took away his shame), gave him a ring (a restored position as son) and sands (restored destiny) and rejoiced over him with friends and neighbors (restoration).

The primary ministry approach for a Prodigal Son is to repent of sin, to:
1. recognize the sin and come to an awareness about what it really is
2. repent of it
3. receive forgiveness and restoration
4. bless

The Older Brother (Luke 15:25-32)—Ungodly Beliefs

The older brother represents a part of every story. He is unable to come into both intimate relationship with his Father and enjoyment of his inheritance because of his performance orientation. He did not know the Father and believed things about Him that were false. Three main issues of ungodly belief: his false beliefs about his relationship to Papa God (“son”), his own lack of intimate relationship (“you have always been with me”) and his ability to enjoy the inheritance (“all that I have is yours”). He invites into the celebration (restoration) and loving fellowship within the family.
When we heal wounding, undo entanglements and repent of sin but still feel distant and unsatisfied, ungodly belief is almost always the reason. Our foundational sense of God the Father has been warped. Our foundational sense of what Jesus has done is incomplete. Our foundational sense of the moment-by-moment uplifting presence of the Holy Spirit is missing.

The primary ministry approach for false and ungodly beliefs of the older brother is to reveal truth to:
1. recognize the ungodly beliefs that interfere with relationships with God and ability to receive from Him
2. get revelation about the truth
3. repent
4. declare the truth
5. bless
Demonic Issues
The primary ministry approach for the demonic is to rebuke and cast out, to
1. find the reasons the demonic is present
2. remove those reasons
3. assert authority over the demonic to remove it
4. fill the place of the demonic influence with truth and blessing.

(taken from the Freedom Tools by Andrew Reese)

Dealing With Fear

Dealing with Fear

            Everyone has to deal with fear.  What is your biggest fear?    Lucinda Basset writes in The Solution:  Conquer Your Fear, Control Your Future that there are common responses that represent fear.  Consider the following list and evaluate if these common responses are part of your life (Bassett, 2011).  These include fear of:

  • Being alone
  • Losing control
  • Flying
  • Enclosed places
  • Abandonment
  • Death and dying
  • Becoming like my mother
  • Never finding my soul mate
  • Losing the people closest to me
  • Becoming mentally incapacitated
  • Failure
  • Heights
  • Spiders
  • Becoming sick

            In this list of common responses, you will either experience one of two different types of fear that will determine your actual danger level in any situation.

A rational fear operates from reason.  It is logical, which creates the basis that will eventually lead to right action.

 The second kind of fear, irrational fear, defies reason and is therefore illogical.  Although irrational fears feel real and dangerous, they are not based in reality and therefore have a slim chance of ever occurring.

            A good example of an irrational fear is the very common fear of flying.  People need to understand, that the perceived fear of flying is not valid.  Commercial flights are the safest methods of travel available.  Did you know that?

  • You are twice as likely to die from a bee sting.
  • You 19 times more likely to die in a car.
  • You are 110 times more likely to die on a bicycle.
  • Your chance of dying in a tornado is 1 in 150,000.
  • Your chance of dying on a commercial plane is 1 in 10 million.

            One of the dangers of not dealing with irrational fear is what Bassett refers to as “secondary gains.”  For example, I can’t take this new job because what if I get anxious?  What if I fail at this audition and make a fool of myself?  Now, you may think you are off the hook because, in your mind, you have given yourself an out.  Secondary gains produce negative benefits.  Take a look at the list of secondary gain you may get by holding onto fear.  Then take a look the positive benefits you can achieve by facing fear and moving forward from fear.

AVOIDING PAIN.  Facing pain is sometimes the necessary action to get us back on the right track.  Maybe we are afraid to end a relationship or quit a dead-end job because of the anticipated pain.  However, it is sometimes more beneficial to feel the fear and do it anyway.  The anticipation is always worse.  Facing the pain will give you the strength to face pain when it comes around again.  As a result, you will be making conscious instead of fear-basing decisions.

AVOIDING CONFRONTATION.  People pleasers and those with low self-esteem avoid confrontation.  When fear helps, you avoid confrontation, you may look like a good person, but you will often feel like and then begin to act like a victim.  Sometimes to escape from the secondary gain, you must learn to practice being assertive.

AVOIDING FAILURE.  “If you refuse to take risks or confront failure, you are allowing fear to control your life.  If you haven’t failed much in life, you haven’t risked much” (Bassett, 2011, p. 84).  Fear of failure will minimize the potential of success.

AVOIDING CHANGE.  Many people avoid change because they are stuck in a comfort zone.  It is possible to thrive in change and the chaos that discomfort produces.  Make it your goal to press the wall of fear and revel in the rewards of change.

AVOIDING HARD WORK.  Often we are afraid of the cost and have the fear that the cost will be greater than the reward of hard work.  If your subconscious mind does not want to work harder and give up more time, your fear may start making decisions for you.  Be honest with yourself and evaluate your long-term goals.  Make a priority of reaching for those goals by embracing the fear you feel as you take the steps necessary to reach those goals.

AVOIDING ANXIETY.  When try to avoid anxiety we are avoiding the inevitable.  Anxiety will always be part of the process of making decisions.  It is what sharpens us to make decisions.  Whether we make a good or bad decision depends on how we handle the release of chemicals in our brain due to an anxious-causing event.  Your goal should not be to avoid anxiety, but to face it and control it.

            The bottom line is this.  If I have bought into the belief that your fears will protect me and keep me safe in my controlled, predictable, safe world I have bought into a lie.  I can make a choice to go beyond my self-imposed limitations and living a life of courage and adventure, exploring new possibilities and horizons.  Rather than ignore, suppress, deny, and run away from my fears; I can choose to see them as benevolent guides and signposts that inform and direct areas of my life that need to be healed and integrated.  It is always better to face our fears then to avoid them.  Healing and survival comes from pressing through the anxiety and pressure that fears brings to our lives.

Works Cited

Bassett, L. (2011). The Solution: Conquer Your Fear, Control Your Future. New York:

     Sterling Publishing Company.