I have always loved pithy little sayings, cute quips and wise proverbs. One of the things I’ve noticed most of them have in common is that they are generally very telling about our humanity. And they also have a lot to say about how we talk and act toward each other!

A wise spouse shows how smart they really are, by saying little;

And a spouse who is understanding, controls their temper!

Now that’s my version of Proverbs 17:27 as it relates to understanding first, then advice; an essential key to conflict for couples if they want to be self-controlled, not fight, and actually accomplish something together when they have a conflict.

Think about how you and your partner “discuss difficult differences” (read “fight”)! 

  • Words fly
  • No one is listening
  • You talk ‘over’ each other
  • There is no acceptance of one another
  • Tempers flare
  • Defenses are up-nothing gets in
  • Nothing is accomplished
  • Hurt and pain result
  • Closeness slides farther away

Conflict will never go well without understanding. Understanding is more than just gaining some information or comprehension. It is considerate awareness of another person’s thoughts, feelings and their perspective. To be understanding does not mean we have to agree with them; just care for and value how they feel and accept what you can. When we are really trying to hear what is in our partner’s heart and head, we are non-defensive, have our walls down and are genuinely caring for our partner. We desire to know more about their ‘inner world.’ “Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.” (from The Message-by Eugene H. Peterson)

Is anger out of control? When there is understanding, tension and tempers will more likely stay calm.  And you can bet where there are angry behaviors or emotional flooding that understanding is NOT PRESENT! Do you and your partner need to work on making sure there is no escalation and keeping negativity at a minimum? Learn to self soothe both yourself, and help your partner too. Taking a break, deep breathing, mindfulness or other good self-care tools can be learned and put into use to make understanding during difficult conversations the norm, and not just a distant probability.

“A patient man has great understanding,

but a quick-tempered man displays recklessness.” A proverb from Soloman

Did your mother ever tell you “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”? We would be wise in some conflicts to ‘hold our tongue’ and ‘think before we speak’. So often when we are having strong emotions with someone we love the words that come out are hurtful, mean, and cannot be taken back, or forgotten by our partner. Words go deep, last a long time and leave damage and baggage in their wake. What is left is only regret, and that is no way to live.  We must learn to be self-controlled especially with those we love, and make sure our words build up and not tear down.

The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” Proverbs

If we are going to be in close relationships, there will be conflict. And if we want those close relationships to thrive and grow we need to be aware of that essential key- understanding!

A few more Proverbs:

  • A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation.
  • Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.
  • A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.
  • Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.