A marriage devotional by Jimmy Evans

The Three-Minute Principle

A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4 NAS)

It has been proven in research that the first three minutes of any confrontation between spouses dictates the rest of the encounter. A harsh start-up dooms a conversation to failure from the beginning. A harsh start-up means beginning a disagreement with your spouse by yelling, accusing, making threats, name calling or so on.

Again, research proves that how you start determines how you finish. So, if you start in a wrong manner, it is better to stop the conversation and come back in a few minutes or hours and start it again. It is also very important that you apologize and take responsibility for anything you’ve said that is mean or damaging.

When you’re angry, it’s important that you talk it out with your spouse. The right way to confront is to begin by affirmation of your love and commitment to the relationship. Say something like this: “Honey, I’m upset and I want to talk to you. Before I say what I want to say, I just want you to know that I love you and I’m committed to you. I’m so glad we’re married and I know we’ll work this out. I also know I may be wrong, but I just need to talk and let you know how I’m feeling.”

When you confront in this manner, your spouse is in no way threatened. Your humble, affirming posture puts him or her in the best environment possible to hear what you have to say and to be able to respond. I have known many couples who begin every serious confrontation with threats of divorce or by calling their spouses terrible names. Remember this—words are nuclear and eternal. The Bible says that we have the power of death and life in our mouths (Proverbs 18:21).

People who don’t understand this damage each other and ruin their chances at happiness. Those who understand the power of words realize that they must be careful what they say. Never is this principle more important than in conflict resolution. When your feelings are hurt and you feel rejected and angry, you must keep your words carefully controlled. You must not allow your emotions to control your actions, but rather, let wisdom control your words.

To successfully resolve conflict you must begin with words of love and affirmation. Remember, the first three minutes of the conversation will determine the outcome in almost every case. Use them wisely and your marriage will reap the benefits.

Talk It Out | Role play a conflict, and practice the first three minutes of your conversation. Begin with affirmation, then talk about the way you feel when your spouse overdraws the checking account, forgets a birthday, etc. Remember how critical the first three minutes are, and notice how they set the tone for the remainder of the conversation.

Walk It Out | Take time this week to spend an hour together at the park. Sit on the swings, throw a frisbee or softball, feed the birds or ducks. Enjoy nature as you enjoy each other’s company.


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