Case Studies Training Class: Week 3—Marital Conflict

December 19, 2011


More From


What Is Our Goal?

Our goal is to take the LOVE-KNOW-SPEAK-DO model and implement it in real life situations.  

Dealing with Marital Conflict

Marital conflict is a very common problem in churches. Christians will have conflicts simply because we are sinners and live in a fallen world. How can a person deal with conflict and still maintain a peaceful, loving household? 

Before You Do the Case Study

Get a little background information on marital conflict. I’ve included two articles from the Journal of Biblical Counseling to help you think further about marital conflict (don’t feel like you need to read all of the material…just read whatever you can!).  One of the articles is a version of Peacemakers for Youth, but it still has some useful things to say about conflict. I’ve also included a core seminar on discipling others through conflict. 

Brief Marital Statistics

Dysfunctional marriages have more negative than positive.

  • The positive/negative ratio in happy marriages is 5 to 1 (during conflict)
  • The positive/negative ratio in divorce prone marriages is .8 to 1 (during conflict)          

Resources on Marital Conflict

  1. Ken Sande’s Peacemakers
  2. The CCEF’s booklet on Conflict

Resources on Marriage

  1. The Riccucci’s Love that Lasts
  2. Dave Harvey’s When Two Sinners Say “I Do”
  3. Bryan Chapell’s Each for the Other
  4. Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect?
  5. Wayne Mack’s Strengthening Your Marriage
  6. The 9 Marks’ marital comparison chart (

Resources on Divorce

  1. John Murray’s Divorce
  2. Andreas Kostenberger’s God, Marriage & Family

Resources on Anger

  1. Robert Jones’ Uprooting Anger
  2. CCEF conference on Anger (MP3 available on line)
  3. CCEF Journal articles on Anger by David Powlison
  4. How to Be Good & Angry by Paul Tripp–DVD & CD

Case Study on Marital Conflict

Counselee Name: Steve (33 yoa) and Stephanie (32 yoa) Snobs

Marital and Family History: Married for ten years. Met in High school and dated. Went to separate colleges but reconnected during their senior year of college. Married a few months after college finished.

Employment: Steve works in construction. Stephanie is an architect. 

Church Involvement: Both are active members and have regularly attended for five years.  Steve is very involved in the ushering ministry and they attend your small group.

Presenting problems: (1) Regular fighting (2) tension over finances? (3) Stephanie withdrawing during conflict (4) Steve’s anger

History of Problems: You and your spouse have a three-year friendship with Steve and Stephanie. You first got to know them when they started attending the church several years ago. Two years later they joined and shortly afterwards started to attending your small group. Last Saturday, after small group, they asked if they could stay a little later so they could talk with you and your spouse.

After everyone left, your spouse asked, “So, what’s going on?” Almost immediately, they both started opening up. Steve and Stephanie have been fighting a lot over the last two years, and the fighting has been getting worse.  Steve says he is holding down a very stressful job (he is the lead foreman at the company). He feels overworked, and when he comes home, he doesn’t have much patience for Stephanie. He says, “She doesn’t care about what I want. She is always complaining about how I don’t care, about how long I work, about how I never listen. When I get home, I need time to unwind because I’ve had a very stressful day. Yet, she complains that I am not willing to help with anything. It’s not true. I’m willing to help. I just need some time.”

Stephanie is worried, not so much about Steven’s work hours, but about his temper. “He’s got a raging temper,” she says. “I’m scared, because when he gets angry, he started hitting things. He has never hit me, but I always feel like he is walking the line between anger and abuse.”

Stephanie gave up her career after she had their son, Andrew. She enjoys being at home and enjoys being a mother. “I’m much rather be at home than working.” Stephanie has pleaded with Steven to go with her to a counselor. She knows that their fighting is getting worse. “I feel distant from him. We don’t talk like we used to. We fight more than talk. Then things break down, and I can’t deal with it anymore, so I just pull back.” 

Steven adds: “We have a tight budget because it is so expensive to live in D.C. We fight often about money. She spends too much and I wish she would be more careful.” Stephanie disagrees, and says she is careful with their money, and that Steven has unrealistic expectations about what it costs to raise a kid and maintain a family. Steven adds again: “She expects me to be perfect, and if I am not, she reminds me of my mistakes. She’s impossible to live with.”  


1.      What are the possible entry gates into Steven and Stephanie’s life?



2.      How do you incarnate the love of Christ?



3.      What questions do you want to ask Steven and/or Stephanie?



4.      Examine the Situation-Responses-Thoughts-Motives. 


a.      Situation: What is going on?



b.     Response:  What does Steven and Stephanie do in response to what is going on?



c.     Thoughts:  What does Steven and Stephanie think about what is going on?



d.    Motives:  What does Steven and Stephanie want out of what is going on?



5.      What does the Bible say about Steven and Stephanie’s situation?



6.      How Do You Want to Speak into Steven and Stephanie’s life?  



7.      What are the heart issues?  What are the goals for biblical change? 



8.      What are the biblical methods of accomplishing God’s goals for change?



9.      In what ways do you need to clarify responsibility?



10.   How can you strengthen their identity in Christ?



11.   What’s your plan for accountability? 



12.  If the only person talking with you is Steven or Stephanie (and not both at the same time), and he/she is threatening to separate from his/her spouse, how would your strategy change?



13.  If the only person talking with you is Steven or Stephanie (and not both at the same time), and he/she confesses that he/she has already left his/her spouse and is planning for a divorce, how would your strategy change? What if he/she is adamant about their decision to divorce, and will not change their mind?