I. Difficult adjustments in relationships threaten togetherness.

A. There is little in our culture today that encourages togetherness. Comparison of:

  1. Background
  2. Economy
  3. Society
  4. Education
  5. Other partners
B. Contrasting backgrounds bring about painful adjustments in several areas:

  1. Values
  2. Vocational
  3. Religious
  4. Financial
C. Superficial motivations for relationships require shocking adjustments:

  1. Feelings
  2. Sexual attraction/confrontation
  3. Cultural pressures
  4. Escape
D. Differing expectations about relationships require unexpected adjustments:

  1. Roles
  2. Expression of feeling
  3. Capabilities
  4. Contributions

II. People enter relationships equipped only with the world's plan find that their togetherness is threatened.

A. The world's plan is a 50/50 performance relationship:

  1. Acceptance based on performance
  2. Giving based on merit
  3. Motivation for action based on feelings

The man whose says he will meet you halfway
is a poor judge of distance

B. The world's plan is destined to fail:

  1. Unreal expectations
  2. Impossibility of knowing that your partner had met you halfway
  3. Tendency to focus on weaknesses
  4. Disappointment in your partner paralyzes your feelings

III. The failure to anticipate selfishness or ego in relationships threatens togetherness.

A. When we enter a relationship with stars in our eyes we cannot see reality

B. Selfishness will rob a relationship of its creativity by:

  1. Emphasizing partner's weaknesses
  2. Stressing disapproval/rejection
  3. Seeking to justify rejection

IV. A failure to work through inevitable difficulties and trials threatens togetherness.

A. There are two failures in our response to tribulations:

  1. Anticipate them
  2. Respond properly
B. Difficulties exist in your life for many reasons -- sometimes constructively

C. Difficulties do not mean something is wrong with your relationship

D. Your response to difficulties will either drive you apart or bind you together.

The keyword in reference to all these threats is isolation



A. Conflict is common to all relationshipss

B. Conflict can become a process that develops togetherness or a process that develops isolation -- there is a choice

C. Conflict can be used as a process that leads to positive results

  1. Conflict can be used to promote understanding
  2. The result of conflict should be better understanding rather than victory
D. Conflict must be resolved to preserve togetherness in relationships

I. Resolution of conflict requires a commitment to listen

A. Poor listening stifles conflict

  1. Pseudo listening fakes interest
  2. Selective listening tunes in only for points of interest
  3. Protective listening doesn't hear any threatening messages
  4. Surface listening catches only the shallow portions of a message
B. Proper listening attitudes encourage communication

  1. Listen with the attitude that your partner's comments are top priority; give focused attention
  2. Listen with the attitude of acceptance and willingness to understand
  3. Listen with an attitude of wanting clarification; ask questions and paraphrase in order to at the meaning of the message
  4. List with an attitude that God is sovereign and you can benefit from what you partner is communicating
  5. Listen with an attitude that you partner is not your enemy
C. Proper listening habits enhance communication

  1. Focus on the message content rather than the method of delivery
  2. Focus on the meaning that than the words they use
  3. Focus on clarification of valid points rather than defense of incorrect accusation
  4. Focus on questions rather than indictments
  5. Focus on understanding rather judgment
D. Remember: listening defuses conflict and builds togetherness

(More about listening)

II Resolution of conflict requires thoughtful confrontation

A. Thoughtful confrontation means speaking the truth

B. Approach confrontation carefully

  1. Check your motivation -- will it help or hurt?
  2. Check your attitude
  3. Check the circumstances: timing, location, and setting
  4. Check to see what other pressures may be present; be sensitive
  5. Check to see if you are willing to accept confrontation as well as give it. (Watch for the boomerang effect)
(* Make the most of the best and the least of the worst)

C. Proper sharing habits enhance communication

  1. Focus on one issue rather than many issues
  2. Focus on the problem rather than the person
  3. Focus on behavior rather than character
  4. Focus on specifics rather than generalizations
  5. Focus on expression of feeling rather than judgment of character
  6. Focus on "I" statements rather than "you" statements
  7. Focus on observation of facts rather than judgment of opinions
  8. Focus on mutual understanding rather than who is winning or losing.
D. Remember: Sharing thoughtfully defuses conflict and builds togetherness.

(* The longer you carry a grudge, the heavier it gets)

III. Resolution of conflict requires a willingness to forgive

A. Seek forgiveness when you are (were)wrong

  1. Communicate understanding of your partner's hurt
  2. Ask your partner to forgive you
  3. It is important to be specific
B. Grant forgiveness when wronged

  1. Forgiveness is an act of the will that puts away resentment or punishment
  2. Forgiveness is costly
  3. Forgiveness should be expressed verbally and specifically
  4. Forgiveness is not conditional
  5. Forgiveness is not impossible. "I can't forgive you" really means "I won't forgive you"
C. Remember: Forgiveness defuses conflict and builds togetherness

IV. Resolution of conflict requires a willingness to come to a point of action

A. Agree on an action point for resolution

B. Agree to disagree agreeably

C. Agree to reschedule the conflict

D. Remember: Agreeing to act on a solution defuses conflict and builds togetherness


A. Conflict-resolution can be a healthy process that leads to acceptance

B. Unresolved conflict leads to isolation

C. Will you handle conflict constructively, rather than destructively?

Adapted with thanks from "Family Relationships" by Dennis Rainey

Last updated 95/11/13