Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How Two Imperfect People Resolve Conflict

Leslie Basham: Your husband is far from perfect, right? Well, guess what? So are you! Here’s pastor, author, and yes, imperfect husband, Crawford Loritts.

Crawford Loritts: The ability to express forgiveness, the ability to say I’m sorry, the ability to say I’m wrong, is terribly important. To be married means, of necessity, you’re going to have to forgive.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for July 25, 2019. 

All this week Nancy has been joined by Crawford and Karen Loritts to talk about building a marriage that matters for generations to come. You can listen to previous parts of this conversation at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy: Well, if you’ve been listening for the last several days, you’ve enjoyed as I have, the conversation with Crawford and Karen Loritts. They’re talking about marriage and the fact that your marriage isn’t just for today but that it’s also sowing seeds for the legacy that you are leaving for a time you can’t see tomorrow. 

They’re talking about the importance of being missional in marriage, but also giving us some practical helps and handles for how to build a marriage that honors the Lord, no matter what your background might be—what baggage, or dysfunction you may have brought into your marriage—there is hope. That’s the message resounding throughout the past several days. 

So Crawford and Karen have been longtime friends. You’ve served for many years in what was then known as Campus Crusade for Christ.

Crawford: Yes, that’s right.

Nancy: Now it’s called CRU. You’ve been speakers on Family Life marriage team—“A Weekend to Remember.” You may have heard Crawford and Karen there pastoring in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Our paths have crossed over the years. I’ve always been so thankful, especially now as a kind of newlywed myself. I’m really grateful for this book that you’ve written for the practical resource that it is for me. I’ve read it not once, but twice.

Crawford: Oh my.

Nancy: I’m so thankful that we can be offering it to our listeners this week. Thank you for joining us here at Revive Our Hearts.

Karen Loritts: Thank you for having us!

Crawford: It’s great to be here Nancy.

Nancy: Today we’re going to talk about conflict.

Karen: Oh boy!

Nancy: I know that this is something you never have. (laughter) We all know that there is no such thing as a conflict-free marriage.

Crawford: That’s right.

Nancy: And if you haven’t had conflict in your marriage, it’s because you haven’t been married for more than a few hours or days. You are two strong people.

Crawford: Yes.

Nancy: Very different.

Crawford: Yes.

Nancy: And that’s true of Robert and me as well. I think in some ways it’s true of most couples.

Crawford: Yes, yes.

Nancy: And a sinner married to a sinner. So this is all a recipe for differences, disagreements, and sometimes those differences are about things that you think are no big deal. It’s just one option versus another. But it’s amazing how even those little things can escalate.

We can find that “this” really matters to me to be right in this situation. And you are very honest as you’ve written about this and talked about it. You’ve had your share of conflicts in forty-seven years of marriage. And if you weren’t going to tell us, we could ask your kids.

Crawford: Yes. (laughter)

Nancy: And they could tell us . . .

Crawford: Chapter and verse.

Nancy: And even probably the way that you approach conflict in a marriage.

Crawford: Yes.

Nancy: That can be different, right? How your parents did it.

Crawford: Yes

Nancy: So get us started on how to think about conflict.

Crawford: Well, I want to say a couple anchor statements about conflict because I think when you hear the word “conflict” everybody get defensive. We have it, but we sort of pull back from it. The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as intimacy without conflict.

Nancy: Wow.

Crawford: Conflict, you stop and think about it . . . What makes a friendship a deep rewarding friendship?

Nancy: It’s when you’ve gone through the war together.

Crawford: Yes that’s exactly right. When you’ve offended one another, you’ve gotten close to one another, and you’ve worked through some things, and you resolve them. It’s sweet. Now, we still have disagreements, we still have arguments and stuff like that, but the reason why we don’t disagree as much today is because we’ve been through those things before, and we’ve resolved them or put them in perspective and now we’re closer. 

I know it’s hard to embrace this. I’m thinking of young couples that sit around my table in my office just before they’re getting married. When I ask them, “How do you deal with conflict?” Their eyes glaze over because they’re in that phase that . . .

Nancy: Conflict? What are you talking about? We love each other! (laughter)

Crawford: It’s all going to work out. But there can’t be intimacy without that. So the issue in conflict is . . . Our dear friend Dennis Rainey has said for years that the issue in conflict is not whether it’s right or wrong, it’s a given.

Nancy: You’re going to have it.

Crawford: You’re going to have it. So you have to quickly get to the place of, what are you going to do when you do have it? How do you handle it? It’s in the handling of conflict that makes it constructive or destructive.

Karen: Let me roll back, because I can remember in our earlier days of marriage, Crawford and I come from two completely different backgrounds. His family is a little family of five or six when you count his uncle. They just hashed everything out. They were very verbal with each other, loving with each other. They had all different kinds of opinions, but around the dinner table they just talked a lot and had conversations on things. When I was with them getting to know this, I thought that they were arguing and not liking each other. Because in my little, small family with my mom and my two brothers, we just didn’t confront each other. Everything was, “You just do you, I’ll just do me.” So when Crawford and I got together, he is what I call a blower. Not that he blows up but that he likes to get things out in the open.

Crawford: I don’t erupt.

Karen: No, you don’t erupt, but you’re going to say it.

Nancy: You’re going to be more direct.

Karen: And I was a stuffer. I remember the first time we had what we called “a marital adjustment time.” It wasn’t an argument; we called it a marital adjustment time. (laughter)

Crawford: Well, it was an argument.

Karen: It was a mess!

Nancy: We’ll talk about that another time

Karen: A marital adjustment time. We were lying in bed, and there was one issue that he just wanted to solve that night. I figured, Why are we talking about this now? Like, it will go away. But he was the person that said, “Let’s just get things done and talk about this issue because the issue will not resolve itself. I was saying, “Well, it will be okay.” I would stuff. We come from two different streams.

Crawford: She’s making me sound more noble that I really was. Actually, I’m impatient.

Karen: Yes, well, yes.

Crawford: And so let’s . . .

Nancy: . . . fix it now.

Crawford: Yes, fix it now. Which was probably not very mature.

Karen: And I thought it would just go away.

Crawford: Yes, which was also not very mature.

Karen: No, it was not mature at all. We’ve had to learn over the years how blowers need to calm down and everything’s not needed to solve right then and there. And stuffers like me need to come out and trust the conversation enough and deal with one issue at a time. And not let it get in the place that it’s erupting.

Crawford: Yes, and I would add to that sweetheart, that blowers need to understand that with a lot of words, you can hurt somebody.

Nancy: Yes.

Crawford: You can exacerbate the problem by talking too much and pushing too hard and going too fast, and that’s not good. That doesn’t end well. The flip side of that though is that stuffers need to understand that problems do not solve themselves through because you’re silent. 

Karen: Yes.

Crawford: Sometimes a little conflict nervous make people nervous. Let’s face it, everyone should be a little bit nervous. I’m a little bit nervous about somebody who wants to fight all the time. But we need to understand that not only do problems not solve themselves, but not dealing with them exacerbates the issue. You can become more passive aggressive. But everybody deals with conflict. There’s no such thing as not dealing with conflict.

Nancy: Right.

Crawford: You’re going to deal with it.

Nancy: One way or another.

Crawford: One way or another, right. Absolutely.

Karen: We came up with this plan for us to set aside a specific time in our calendar to talk about a specific issue and then talk it through. This helped me to talk those things through instead of stacking issues on top of each other. We would deal with one issue at a time. So having those times of discussion helped me to learn how to talk through those issues instead of stuffing it down. 

And you slowed down being a blower and listened to me. So having those things on our schedule, times to talk those through.

Crawford: And constant communication.

Karen: Yes that was good.

Crawford: Setting some time aside each day, time each week, and that kind of thing.

Karen: Whether it was about kids of finances or . . . Finances always got me a little bit nervous.

Crawford: Yes, yes. In the early days, we didn’t have much to talk about.

Karen: So true. (laughter)

Nancy: And Karen, you’ve seen a lot of conflict in your home of origin.

Karen: Oh yes.

Nancy: So this is something you’re not wanting to characterize your marriage.

Karen: There was a lot of stuff between my mother and step-father. There were nights that I couldn’t even go to sleep because they were fussing downstairs having these arguments. I stayed away from arguments. I wanted everything to be peaceful and quiet. I wanted everyone to get along because I was raised with that. When I got married to Crawford and here I am a Christian, that was not the right way to handle it.

Nancy: And it’s interesting that the things that breed conflict are our differences.

Crawford & Karen: Yes that’s right.

Nancy: But those are also the things that often draw us to each other, the things that we’re mesmerized by when we’re dating. Then we get married, and we say, “We’ll you’re different than I am.” Well, of course, that’s what you were attracted to in the first place.

Crawford: Exactly, exactly. What was so cute and endearing is now a nuisance because you have to live with it, and you’re not going away from it. Which sets us up for one of the principles of conflict which is different isn’t necessarily wrong . . . it’s just different. There’s a difference between differences and weaknesses. Our weaknesses need to be worked on, but you have to be careful because those weaknesses are only changed in the context of grace and love and mutual acceptance of each other. So you have to be careful there.

Nancy: Keep hammering on a weakness and it’s probably going to get worse and not better.

Crawford: That’s right. Differences are not necessarily weaknesses, they are just differences. They are little things that we can do to irritate one another. I mean I love what Dr. Gary Chapman says. (You know he wrote the Five Love Languages.) He talked about when he and his wife Carolyn got married. She had this terrible habit of not closing cabinet doors; she would just leave them open. He would just get bent out of shape. Then finally it dawned on him, and he said, “Ok, just close the doors [behind her]. Why worry about that.” And it was fine.

Nancy: You’re giving yourself ulcers. 

Crawford: That’s right. So I think that this probably sounds strange because we live in a culture where how you feel is universal and is the standard. But what we’ve learned through these years is that you’ve got to choose what offends you.

Karen: Oh yes.

Crawford: In other words, there are make or break issues for sure. But you have to put some of these offenses in categories. You’ve got to stop and think, Is this a hindrance to our oneness in marriage?

Nancy: is it worth losing our peace for?

Crawford: That’s right. Or is this just a little something that I just don’t like. If it’s something that I just don’t like, then maybe I’ll get around to it later on, but I’m not going to poor all my emotional energy into that. I just have to say, “Forget it. Life is too short.”

Nancy: Let it go.

Crawford: Let it go. Every single thing. Somebody’s out there saying, “I just can’t do that.” But I want to challenge you, you do that every day or else you can’t survive. I mean there are issues on your job. If you pour out all of your emotional capital on every little thing, you’re going to be a mess. Things are the same in a marriage. You have to say, “Okay, well I’m . . .” 

This is hilarious because Karen will say this to me. She’ll probably say it to me before the day is over. I’ll do something that kind of bugs or irritates her, and she’ll just say, “Well, that’s Crawford being Crawford.” (laughter)

Karen: Yes, I’ll just say just let it go. Here’s the suitcase story.

Crawford: Oh no, here we go! I knew I wouldn’t get away with this.

Karen: Mrs. Ponder, my spiritual mother, the one that loved me in my church, was the Elizabeth in my life. She was the one that prayed for me, that gave me encouraging words, and steered me on to be a godly wife. Mrs. Ponder had been praying for me, making sure I was being a good wife, godly wife, and all that kind of good stuff. We were working on me going beyond just want I wanted to do in the house but to serve my husband. God gave me a lesson. Crawford was traveling with CRU. He would come home and take his suitcases and leave them anywhere in the living room or bedroom. He was just thinking that his laundry was going to pop out of the suitcase and and just wash itself.

Crawford: Not exactly.

Karen: Face it, yes. That would irritate me to no end. That went on for a couple of times. So it was time to go out on another trip, and he couldn’t figure out why his things weren’t ready to go and packed. We had a big marital adjustment time about the suitcase.

Crawford: It was an argument.

Karen: And so Mrs Ponder, she didn’t know all the details, but she just wanted to check on me if I was serving my husband. Well, I had four children, three were in school. I was running the household while he was gone for several days straight. He would come back with his suitcases, and it was making me irritated at my husband.

Crawford: People are going to think that I’m a slob Karen.

Karen: Well, no, no, no. The way that Mrs. Ponder was helping me was to serve you and help you to unpack your suitcase and do your laundry.

Crawford: Can I tell everyone now how you served me in that? Can I finish that off for you?

Karen: Well, yes.

Crawford: So here’s the rest of that story, she did serve me. Her way of serving me was . . . I didn’t take the suitcases and put them back where they should be. She was getting exasperated with me and not telling me about that. So she didn’t say anything but just put them in the doorway.

Karen: Of the bedroom.

Crawford: Of the bedroom.

Karen: What did Crawford do?

Crawford: Walked over it. Because . . .

Karen: He walked OVER the suitcases.

Crawford: Yes, but that didn’t last long because you . . .

Karen: Well, you . . .

Crawford: I got some words of encouragement from you about doing that.

Karen: But that was the last time I did that because I was being mean and being ugly towards my husband and not serving him.

Crawford: Yes.

Karen: I needed to learn how . . .

Crawford: I think the listeners are hearing more than they really needed to know.

Karen: I needed to learn how to serve my husband in that way even though that was a small thing. Mrs Ponder pointed it out to me that it was a lack of humility in serving my husband in thinking that I needed more attention than what I wanted to give my husband. That marital adjustment time worked out because I went ahead and served my husband by moving the suitcase and not letting it become a source of tension of a marriage.

Nancy: So really, it was you having to learn to pick your battles.

Karen: Pick my battles.

Nancy: Is this something I can let go of. I’m thinking about that phrase that we talked about earlier in this series from 1 Corinthians 13—love isn’t irritable or resentful.

Karen: Yes, that’s right.

Nancy: That becomes the measuring stick for am I loving well. So you say, “Does that mean I’m supposed to do everything for my husband who doesn’t do anything for himself?” We’re not saying that because if you’re both trying to love and humble yourself . . . Did you ever change your ways about your suitcase?

Crawford: I did, and I have put them away. Happy wife, happy life. 

Nancy: You both did something in that.

Crawford: We did. So she has me really domesticated now.

Karen: You take care of your own suitcases; you do a good job. The thing of it is that I had to choose what offends me. I just needed to grow up and just do the godly thing for my husband.

Crawford: Well, we both needed to grow up and stop reacting to each other and start responding.

Karen: That’s right, yes.

Crawford: I want to say this here. Married people, we need to be who we are with one another. There’s no pretense. You know, the naked and not ashamed bit is the principle of transparency with one another. Now having said that, I think that we need to not be picky people.

Nancy: Yes not fragile, not easily offended.

Crawford: Not easily offended, not picking on one another. So maturity says that the more mature you get, your tolerance of things should grow.

Nancy: Yes, and you also start getting perspective on what difference this is going to make a year from now or ten years from now.

What I’m also thinking of as I’m listening to you is how differently we treat people that we’re not close to, things that we would make allowances for or assume the best of from somebody at work or another church member. 

We wouldn’t let that get under our skin. We wouldn’t demand that they see it our way. But somehow the people within the four walls of our home we take liberties to not extend grace to, when that’s where we should be extending the most grace.

Crawford: What you just said, I don’t remember exactly when it was, probably about twenty-five to thirty years ago, it dawned on me that nobody should treat my wife better than I do, nobody! Nobody should honor her better than I do. Nobody should invest in her more than I do. In the name of me “just being myself,” it doesn’t give me permission to be petty and nasty and irritable and all of that stuff. I am to bless her.

Nancy: Both ways.

Crawford: It works both ways, but I actually think that if you have that mindset then what that does is one of the principles of resolving conflict. It builds trust and transparency which helps you. You’re not guessing whether you have that person’s heart. That’s not on the table. The issues are on the table.

But if you act in such a way that in which you are snipping at one another and getting all bent out of shape, you are disproportionate about issues you’re reacting to with one another.

Nancy: And assuming the worst about each other rather than the best.

Karen: I think that sometimes I reacted to you out of insecurities because I really didn’t trust you. I wasn’t being honest with you because I was insecure. Could I really share my feelings toward you.

Crawford: That insecurity works both ways. I was insecure as well. I was threatened. Sometimes people with my personality, when you’re insecure you tend to act more autocratic. That really is just camouflage for insecurity. Like as a little boy and not having your way and you get very demanding and . . .

Nancy: . . . say it louder.

Crawford: If you say it louder you think that makes it right. But it’s trust and transparency. The other principle about resolving conflict is that you have got to be a forgiver and not just express forgiveness.

Nancy & Karen: Yes.

Crawford: You’ve got to be a forgiver. One of the questions that I’ve learned to ask young couples early on in a premarital session is, “Tell me about your ability to forgive.”

Nancy: Because to be married means, of necessity, you’re going to have to forgive. Now, I’m not talking about a cheap forgiveness or confusing reconciliation and forgiveness. They can be two different things. But the ability to express forgiveness, the ability to say I’m sorry, the ability to say I’m wrong, without qualification—you know, weasel words or backing it up or this kind of thing—is terribly important. 

Crawford: Here’s how it works in conflict. If Karen knows that I’m going to be tender toward her and that I’m going to forgive her because I’m thinking that that might not be my issue, but I’ve got some issues, too. And it’s going to be my turn one day. That takes the defensiveness away. It helps you move toward the issue itself. 

A lot of the stuff about resolving conflict isn’t so much strategies about how to deal with certain issues, sometimes it’s that, but it’s more about your own personal maturity.

Nancy: And your own recognition of your own sinfulness.

Crawford: Exactly.

Nancy: It’s the fact that I need God’s grace and forgiveness every day.

Crawford: That’s right.

Nancy: How can I withhold it from my husband.

Crawford: That’s right. Those principles that we apply to other people need to be applied at home. I mean, don’t look at the speck in someone else’s eye and you’ve got this big log in your own eye.

Nancy: Don’t we tend to think the opposite though?

Crawford: Yes.

Nancy: We get the other person’s imperfections and put them under a microscope, and then we see our own in a telescope.

Crawford: Yes.

Karen: Crawford can be 98 percent spot on, but it’s that 2 percent that can drive me crazy and can drive him crazy. I have to learn that. I was thinking too that people who have been raised in an environment that I was raised, single parent home, dysfunction, and the stories . . . My vocabulary didn’t have the words, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Nancy: I had to learn that.

Crawford: Yes.

Karen: I’m still learning that. Those words just don’t come out of my mouth easily. We’ve had to learn in marriage to use godly words. I need to put them into my vocabulary. That will help my husband and our marriage for it to be all that God wants it to be. Finding that spelling list. Put those words in.

Crawford: Nancy, one of the things I’ve learned is, whether it’s conflict in our marriage or some position of leadership I have to confront, unfortunately that’s the underbelly of it. You have to confront people about certain things. There are three words that the Lord has always whispered to me when I step into it, particularly when I’m angry about something or I’m really upset about something that has offended me. I’ve learned to back up a little bit because if I speak when I’m angry, typically I’ll say a paragraph more than what needed to be said.

Nancy: Something you’re going to regret.

Crawford: That’s right. It doesn’t end well. But I’ve learned to back up a little bit. But these three words come to mind: transparency, empathy, and compassion.

Those three words. And tell the truth. No one’s ever helped by not telling the total, 100 percent of what’s true. But do it in such a way that you put yourself in that person’s position as they’re listening to that truth.

Nancy: That’s empathy.

Crawford: That’s empathy, and that empathy will inform your heart, which is compassion.

I think that has helped me even in our relationship and with our kids as they were growing up. Just back up a little bit. You need to tell the truth; you need to put yourself in their situation, and you need to have heart about it. If we can keep that in mind, it goes a long way.

Nancy: Well lots more practical wisdom here in this book that you’ve written. It’s not like PhD stuff, but it’s simple. But it takes humility and God’s grace, connecting with God’s grace, recognizing that I’m a sinner, I need forgiveness, and then applying that in what should be the most natural place in the earth—our marriage relationship. But sometimes that’s the hardest place to apply it.

Karen: Yes.

Crawford: Absolutely.

Nancy: So I thank you Karen and Crawford for your transparency and for letting us learn from your mistakes and also from your walk with the Lord. And in this little book, Your Marriage Today . . . and Tomorrow, you give this kind of rich content and help for marriages that are in every season and situation. I know that we have a lot of listeners that have been on the edge of their seats listening listening to this conversation and thinking, We need a dose of this. We need a dose of God’s grace in our marriage.

This book isn’t going to solve all of your problems, Christ is the one who points you toward what you need. You might just want to bow your heart and just say, “Our marriage has been tense. I’ve been tense. I’ve been angry. I’ve been demanding. I’ve been unreasonable. I feel like there’s this constant tension in our marriage and Lord. I just want you to change me, to infuse your grace into our marriage, to help us. We need you. We need your wisdom.” 

Lift up your marriage to the Lord. Lift up your own heart to the Lord. Lift up your mate to the Lord. Lord, help us step back. Give us that transparency that empathy that compassion that’s the heart of Christ. 

And really believe that God really can bring a whole new way to your marriage, a whole new tone, a whole new spirit. It’s not going to change overnight, but maybe you want to just start with something like those words, “I’m so sorry. I was wrong about that. Would you please forgive me?” Don’t wait for your mate to say those words; you be the first. Robert and I talk often about racing to the cross.

See who can get there first and that passage in Romans 12, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” How can we show honor instead of disrespect, disregard for each other? How can we esteem each other as better than ourselves. 

And if I sound like any expert, please know that I’m not. We’re new at this, we’re learning about this and growing in this every day. But there is grace, and there is help and hope. 

I want to encourage you if you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we want to send you a copy of this really practical book on marriage, Your Marriage Today . . . and Tomorrow. Give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or contact us online at ReviveOurHearts.com

Let us know that you’d like to make a donation to help not only marriages like yours but other marriages around the world of people who are looking for hope and help and healing. Then let us know that you’d like a copy of Crawford and Karen Loritts book on marriage. We’d be happy to send that to you.

Lord, we just pray for mercy and grace and help and hope and healing for many, many marriages. One mate may be listening today and wished that the other one was listening. But You determined which one would be listening, and that’s the one that You want to speak to first. So have Your way. We pray that You would bring about a whole new fresh work of grace in many hearts and marriages as a result of this conversation. We pray it in Jesus name, amen.

Crawford & Karen: Amen

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to experience freedom through forgiveness. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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