Whenever people are around other people, there is bound to be conflict. We are all sinners. We are selfish. Everyone has different wants and desires. Most conflict is generally resolved. People resolve their differences and move on. Often, relationships are stronger because of the conflict. Unfortunately, some conflict is so severe that it is never resolved and destroys relationships. With such conflict, marriages are torn apart and churches are divided.
When such severe conflict exists, I have noticed that one party usually believes the other party has evil motives. They believe the person is “out to get them” or wants to destroy them. In a church context, they believe the other person is trying to take over the church or take away someone’s rights. Such conflict is extremely difficult to resolve because the parties do not trust each other. They assume the worst in the other person. They will not give the benefit of the doubt to the other person.
On the other hand, when people are able to resolve conflict, they usually give the benefit of the doubt to the other person. They acknowledge that there is a conflict but believe the other person has a good heart. They trust that the other person has good motives; they are just misguided at that moment.
My observations were recently confirmed. In an article on Townhall.com, Rebecca Haglin wrote that two marriage-killing habits are criticism and pessimism. She refers to a study that found “the happiest marriages reflect an overall positive attitude about the goodness of the other person and the marriage itself – even as the couple works to resolve conflicts.” (Emphasis added). Haglin continued, “[N]ewlyweds who maintained an idealized view of the other person, putting the best gloss on their attributes and behavior, were happier after three years than less idealistic couples.” (Emphasis added). According to psychologist Garth Fletcher, “Positive biases and happiness seem to push each other along.” Hagelin concludes, “[T]hose who persist in presuming the best about their spouse, and who maintain a forgiving attitude and optimism about the future relationship, actually create a better marriage for themselves.” (Emphasis added).
For a happier marriage, we should assume our spouse has a good heart. Give them the benefit of the doubt. In all conflict, presume there is good in the other person. Do not assume the other person has evil motives or is out to get you. By making this fundamental change in our thinking, we can resolve conflict and have happier marriages.