The Courage to Love in the Face of Conflict

“I think she would agree that I brought my ‘A Game’ this week in my courage to love. But it goes straight to hell in a handbasket when we get into disagreements.”

His wife immediately responded: “I know that’s right!”

I shared about this wonderful man last week in my blog, entitled “Tthe Courage to Really Love.” (If you missed it, click here.)

It is certainly true for most couples … that the courage to love becomes challenged in the face of arguments or disagreements.

I share with all the couples I work with, and any couple who will listen… that disagreements, challenges, and frustrations are the greatest opportunity for intimacy that we will ever have.

It’s in these kinds of moments that who were meant to be and who we’ve become share the same air.

Who we’ve become is rooted in our past.

Who we’re meant to ‘become’ is our choice at having hope … and the only pathway to change.  

But until you embrace that and take it in down deep … and bust through any opposing beliefs … conflicts will just be another opportunity to chink away at the foundation of your relationship.

Our unhealthy patterns and cycles are spotlighted in moments of conflict.

Unless we choose to demonstrate the courage to love in conflict, the unhealthy patterns will become more deeply ingrained.

It’s the frog as the water heads toward hot scenario … the more you visit hot the quicker the relationship slowly fades … blah blah blah … that’s just us.

But … that’s NOT living.

The wife commented, “We had been on a slow fade for years, but with practicing the courage to love, we’ve seen a major shift. Only to watch it go down the tubes because we clearly don’t have the courage to love in moments of conflict.”

He nodded in agreement.

Then she pleaded: “Can you please help us with this? I can’t stand the thought of us beginning to fade away again!”

I paused with a look of hope at them and thought, my kind of moment … then said.

“Absolutely! Let’s look at the courage to love in the face of conflict.”

I wanted to share these things with you as well, so that you can use conflict to strengthen your love. Instead of destroying the foundation of your relationships!

“Courage is … showing up, leaning in, and taking action when something feels scary, dangerous, risky, or potentially painful.” Dr. Danya Rumore, University of Utah 

The love you’re scared to show and share … is the love you never got. 

In those moments when you put your heart out there … and your need for that love was rejected … what happened? The fear to love and share healthy intimacy took root in you.

That pain lives in your subconscious and that’s why people stay a tangled mess of emotions. It’s just so much easier to settle for a temporary form of peace. 

But until you heal it, you’ll keep doing what you don’t want to do. And repeating what hurt you on to those you currently love, or at least those who currently love you.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate-I do.” Paul an Apostle  

Let’s look at the courage to love when faced with conflict. Here’s what that courage looks like:    

1. Courage to stay in the game and stay committed to a positive outcome.

“This is where it gets hard for me. I just think it’s better to walk away,” the husband commented.

He was serious and waited for her response.

“Yes, he drops bombs on me, and then he goes and sleeps like a baby… And I’m up all night,” she commented tearfully.

I explained to my couple, “If you need to take a moment, you must say with kindness and respect that you need to step away for a few moments. But that you will come back. To make a sincere attempt to resolve things.”

With a cunning grin, the husband commented: “So I can step away and come back the next day?”

Then he threw his hands out as if he needed to protect himself from the oncoming kick in the shin that he deserved from her. 

“Actually, it’s OK to step away for 15 or 20 minutes. But longer than that, actually indicates that you’re using it as control.”

“Oh!” he moaned. “If you have to work this hard at it, doesn’t that mean that there’s something terribly wrong with our relationship?”

I responded with something I really want you to pay attention to.

“In our culture, we have learned to look for the easy way out in everything. The truth is all great things require some amount of hard work.” 

We’ve awarded trophies to everyone … and established the idea that you can be treated like an Olympian without working for it. 

I love what Dr. John Maxwell says about this:

 Every worthwhile accomplishment has a price tag attached to it. The question is always whether you are willing to pay the price to attain it – in hard work, sacrifice, patience, faith, and endurance.

This is true, perhaps more in relationships than any other area of our lives.

You cannot do the hard work if you do not show up and remain committed to a positive outcome.

That’s why 95% of day-to-day conversations with random people stay in the shallow end. If you go any deeper, they’ll most likely go off just being who they’ve settled on becoming.

When you ignite someone toward an intimate conversation, you’ll discover real quick how deep the well of intimacy is in them … and whether or not you’re safe.   

I leaned toward the husband and asked: “Why do you think you are willing to work so hard on your boat and on your motorcycle?”

After staring at me, like a deer in headlights for a moment, he responded, “Because they run better!”

I waited while he let it soak in …

“Oh, I get it!” he whispered with a bit of embarrassment.

The courage to love in the face of conflict requires staying in the game and being committed to a solution. Even if it requires hard work.

Conflict always challenges our core bents toward responding with a healthy sense of intimacy … or not.

The call of intimacy or (In-To-Me-See) sets off either the healed or the still broken parts in us.

The whole parts in us pause, and the broken parts still head towards defensive mode.

“Everything worthwhile is uphill. I’ve been saying that a lot lately. Because it’s a fact. Almost everything that has value. Almost everything that has purpose, requires work on our part to attain it. We must put in the effort to get to where we want to go. Think about it – you want a good marriage? You have to work at it.” Dr. John Maxwell

2. Courage to show up as your best self on your “A” game.

“So, you’re saying that I’m not on my ‘A’ game when I go to bed after conflict?” he asked.

When any of us deteriorate into conflict and say things that are not in TREKy talk, we are not on our ‘A’ game.

Ask yourself this question, “Would I talk or treat someone at work or at church or at a concert or at … (any place other than with my partner) like I’m getting ready to treat them?!” NOT no … but H*#L NO!

Let’s talk a moment about TREKy talk. Here is the definition:

Speaking with:



Empathy and


When we speak to anyone in a way that is contrary to TREKy talk, we are not on our ‘A’ game.

It is difficult once we have gone there (any place other than TREKy talk) to take a deep breath, return to our ‘A’ game (our best self), and address the situation.

The absolute best way to diffuse a moment is to pause before we open our mouths. It really doesn’t take that long to rethink your words and regroup our emotions before responding.

They will wait while you gather your best self! 

The courage to love absolutely causes us to press pause, stop ourselves, put on our ‘A’ game, and come back to address the situation.

My couple had shared their unfortunate experience from earlier in the week.

He’d confessed to her the week before that he had to “make himself marry her,” because he did not love her at that time.

Admirable that he would share and validate why their marriage was so lonely for her.

And why she had felt so unloved for the first few years.

Yet his confessions was deeply wounding to her, as you can imagine.

Later, she had asked for some reassurance that he loved her now, and he had blurted out how she just needed to get over it and move on.

Then blamed her for creating drama by even daring to ask him for a reassurance.

He had promptly gone to bed after speaking harshly in a demeaning way. 

Leaving her even more lonely and further wounded.

“When angry you will make the best speech, you will ever regret.” Ambrose Bearce

I asked him if he thought he was his best self or on his ‘A’ game when he did that?

He shook his head no, but also lowered his head in shame. 

I said, “I’m not trying to shame you at all, I just want to use it as an example of how hard it is to show up as your best self after you’ve spoken in such a manner.”

He nodded.

I had him imagine we were back in the moment, and that he had stepped away to put on his ‘A’ game. 

“What could you have done with the courage to love in that moment after you had taken a 15-minute break?” I asked. 

With his head still tucked, he made a great guess, although I could hear the uncertainty in his voice.

“Come out and say that I was so sorry that I was such a yelly belly chicken that I could not acknowledge how that must have hurt her? And put my arms around her and tell her that I did love her with all my heart?”

I didn’t have to tell him that it was a great place to start.

Because even though it was days after it had occurred, his wife immediately got out of her chair and hugged him.


Because at that moment in my office, he put on his ‘A’ game, his best stay-in-the-game self, committed to a great outcome.  

And he got it! Right there at that moment. He embraced the discomfort of expressing feelings he was meant to ‘freely’ express instead of having to ‘try’ and express them. 

Bring your ‘A’ game, your best self, and stay committed to resolution. That’s the courage to love in the face of challenges!

3. Courage to dig for the root in yourself.

“I have a feeling I’d better get a shovel,” my client said with a little boy grin.

His wife shoved her hand forward as if she was handing him an imaginary shovel. So clearly, she agreed.

I love having fun moments with clients when we’re working on deep issues.

You may be wondering; how would I do this digging in myself?

Let me begin by sharing what I shared with my client.

“First of all, I think we can all agree that in moments like you experienced, you were not your best self.”

I continued.

“So, here’s what the shovel digging process looks like. By asking yourself this question … ‘What on earth in my history, in my beliefs, or in my life patterns, would cause me to say something like that … so contrary to who I really am’?”

“So, you want me to answer that?” he asked rhetorically. 

I waited because I could see that he was scanning his brain, as well as the feelings and beliefs on his heart drive.

(Your heart drive is the place where trauma, hurt, or various other feelings & beliefs are branded on/in us early in life … taking charge of who we are and what we do … instead of the moment wiring you with the positives of that moment, the trauma that charged into it and replaced those expected feelings with the unanticipated fake ones only trauma can bring).

“Could it be something like I get overwhelmed emotionally, maybe with shame? And I would rather push her away and forget about it by going to sleep?”

I could see the wheels were still turning, or more likely churning, so I paused to wait.

He continued.

“I hate even saying that because it’s so self-absorbed. And I don’t want to be that way.”

I leaned toward him and said gently: “I believe that. I believe you don’t want to be that way. And I don’t believe it’s who you are. But can you connect this to something hurtful in your life?”

Although he was fighting the redness welling up in his eyes, with the sound of a little boy voice, he almost whispered: “Like … maybe when I was playing baseball in first grade and struck out? And my dad left me there after telling me that I was a little sissy and no son of his? I didn’t even know the way home!”

I nodded as his wife took his hand with great compassion.

“What we don’t heal … we repeat,” I said softly.

We did a powerful healing exercise on that moment in his life.

The following week, they returned.

She said, “That little healing exercise we did … it’s changed him.”

He added:

“It really has. Something deep in me happened. Thank you…”

When we have the courage to dig deep for the root, it changes all of us. But it requires the courage of love to do so.


“Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan

The courage to love shows its truest self in the presence of conflict.

I’ve always heard that you see a person’s true character in how they untangle Christmas lights, or how they deal with reckless drivers.

If that is so, our true courage to love is best displayed by what we do in moments of conflict.

And especially when it seems like the same kinds of conflict repeat themselves ad nauseam … that’s when the real courage to love can happen!

I believe you have the courage to love. The next time conflict arises between you and the one that you truly love, ask yourself:

How will I show my courage to love?

How will I stay in the game, committed to resolution?

How will I show up my best self?

How will I inspire my ‘A’ game?

How will I dig deep for what needs to be refined deep within me?

And perhaps most important, how will I show my love to my partner in order to seize the moment for healing and deeper intimacy?

“Two conflicting forces cannot exist in one human heart. When doubt reigns, faith cannot abide. Where hatred rules, love is crowded out. Where selfishness rules, there love cannot dwell.”  Billy Graham “You’ve heard, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute and irritate you. If you just love those who love you, what incentive