There are three phases of a conflict that we learn of from Song of Solomon 5-7. In this post we’ll look at phase one.
Phase #1: From Resentment to Retaliation (5:2-3)
Song of Solomon 5:2-3, I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling: “Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.” But I responded, “I have taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them soiled?”
Here we have Solomon coming home late from work and his wife (the Shulamite) is not happy about it. Maybe she made a nice meal that he missed and was now cold. Maybe after a long day she had no help putting the kids to bed. Or maybe this was the 50th time he broke his promise to be home from the office no later than 6pm. We don’t know, but whatever the reason for his tardiness she resents it. Solomon finally comes home from a long day of work and has one thing on his mind – some lovin! In those days the husband had his own room and the wife had her own room. So when Solomon came knocking on her door whispering sweet nothings, we know what he wants. But since she’s hurt by his coming home late, she rejects his advances. When she says “I have taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them soiled?” – that’s Hebrew for “I’ve got a headache. Leave me alone!” He let her know he wanted a snack and she told him “Sorry, the kitchen is closed until further notice!” She felt resentful and she retaliated. She punished him by withholding sex.
Solomon retaliated too. Solomon was charming so he tried to use his charm to win over his wife (men can be very charming when they want sex). He’s apologetically calling her all the little pet names he has for her (my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one). And we know from verse 5 that he even put some of his cologne on the door handle so his fragrance would seep into the room and maybe soften her heart a bit. And look what happens. The Shulamite says in vv5-6, “I jumped up to open the door for my love…I opened to my lover, but he was gone!…I called to him, but there was no reply.” Solomon is now the one who’s resentful. He’s resentful that she’s rejected his advances. He’s turned on the charm and given it all he’s got and she’s not even willing to get out of bed to talk about it. So he storms off. Right when he does she finally has a change of heart, but by the time she gets to the door he’s already walking away. She calls out to him to come back but he gives no reply. She retaliated by withholding sex and now he’s retaliating by giving her the silent treatment.
From these verses we’ve just read we learn THE 4 SOURCES OF CONFLICT.
- Unmet Expectations (Song of Solomon 5:2). She expected him to be home on time and he didn’t meet her expectations. He expected her to be ready for sex at the drop of a hat and she didn’t meet his expectations. This is where conflict comes from. Unmet expectations. // I am a very punctual person. I live by this standard “Five Minutes Early. Right on Time.” My wife lives by this standard “We’ll eventually get there at some point.” lol When I expect her to be ready on time and she fails to live up to my expectation the stage is set for conflict. // My wife is very neat. She lives by “There’s a place for everything and everything goes in its place.” I live by “I’m going to wear these jeans again tomorrow so why fold them and put them in closet? It’s more efficient to leave them out.” When she expects me to put my clothes away and I fail to live up to her expectation, the stage is set for conflict. So we see that the first source of conflict comes from unmet expectations. If you want to avoid conflict don’t set unrealistic expectations.
- Selfishness (Philippians 2:4). Solomon selfishly wanted her to fulfill his need for physical intimacy, without caring at all about her need for emotional intimacy prior to physical intimacy. He’s been gone all day. He’s left her alone in the house all day. He hasn’t helped with any chores, hasn’t helped with the children, and then he expects her to be ready for a wild night of romance. That was selfish. In the same way, she was selfish in that she withheld sex from her husband to punish him. A husband only has one righteous outlet for sexual fulfillment – his wife. And when the one righteous outlet is closed, that opens up a husband to the temptation of fulfilling his sexual needs in an unrighteous way. This is what the Shulamite did with Solomon and it was selfish. A man needs to unselfishly think of his wife’s needs for emotional intimacy prior to physical intimacy, and a wife needs to remember that she is her husband’s one righteous outlet for sexual fulfillment and that rejecting his advances opens him up needlessly to temptation. This is why the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7 that married couples shouldn’t deprive each other of sexual fulfillment. Paul says the reason is because denying each other opens us up to Satan’s many temptations. This is why there are so many affairs and why so many struggle with pornography. When the righteous outlet is not an option, people turn to unrighteous outlets. So we see that the second source of conflict is selfishness. If you want to avoid conflict do what Philippians 2:4 says “look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” In other words: Don’t be selfish.
- Assuming the worst (1 Corinthians 13:7). No doubt the Shulamite concluded “He’s so insensitive and he only cares about himself!” No doubt Solomon concluded “She doesn’t care about my needs. And she doesn’t care about me!” Well, the Shulamite was wrong in her assumption that he was insensitive and didn’t care. The truth was that Solomon probably had an emergency in the kingdom that demanded his attention, as much as he would rather have come home for dinner with his wife. And Solomon’s assumptions about her were wrong too. She hasn’t stopped loving him or caring for him. She’s just probably had a long day with the kids. And when he didn’t come home on time she had to put them down herself. She’s probably just exhausted. // There’s a reason there’s a saying about assuming. You know the saying: When you assume you make an…Well, you know the saying. The reason we have a saying about assuming is because we are almost always wrong in our assumptions! // If I leave my workout sneakers in the bathroom after my growth group, Kristin can assume I’m insensitive and that I don’t care about what’s important to her OR she can assume I was super busy at work that day and left in a hurry and that it was unintentional. If I come home from work and dinner isn’t ready, I can assume my wife doesn’t care about me OR that she probably had a tough day homeschooling the kids – which put her a little behind schedule. It’s a choice. And the truth is: When you assume the worst you are almost always wrong – so start assuming the best in your spouse! Assuming the worst is the third source of conflict. If you want to avoid conflict don’t assume the worst. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love “…is always hopeful…” That means love gives the benefit of the doubt.
- Retaliation (Matthew 5:39). Have you ever heard the saying “Hurt people, hurt people?” Well, it’s true. The Shulamite felt hurt by Solomon and retaliated. Solomon felt hurt by the Shulamite and retaliated. When we are hurt we want the other person to feel how we feel, so we retaliate. But this always escalates the conflict. This is why Jesus taught in Matthew 5:39 to turn the other cheek. Turning the other cheek is all about NOT retaliating, because retaliation always takes us a step further away from reconciliation. Retaliation is the fourth source of conflict.
So that’s phase #1: From Resentment to Retaliation. They resented each other, placed unrealistic expectations on each other, were selfish towards each other, assumed the worst of each other. This turned resentment into retaliation. Now they are in a full blown fight.