Love and Peace

An Ongoing Gift For Couples  

Rev. Dr. Ronald Lehenbauer, LMFT, LCC Pastoral Counselor

Longing For Peace
Some couples have love but not peace.  They argue a lot.  They love each other but they have difficulty being in agreement on a lot of things.  Sometimes their disagreements become pretty heated, and they say things to each other they wish they could take back.  Instead of love and peace they have love and war.  

The renowned couple therapist, John Gottman, in his research has discovered four couple behaviors which are predictors of separation and divorce.  They are: blaming-criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling-withdrawal.  Gottman calls them the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.  They are very dangerous to a marriage relationship.  Couples who persist in them do not have a happy future.    

Know Your Options
All couples have disagreements. Disagreement is inevitable, but hostility is optional.  If you are in a couple relationship, you may experience small arguments or misunderstandings.  Or you may find yourselves in major battles that last for hours or days.  You’ve got love but not peace.  You long for love without hurt – a loving and peaceful and connected relationship.

Perhaps in your couple relationship, or in some other important relationships in your life, you may be looking for peace instead of war.  I’ve got good news for you.  Whether they’re little arguments or big battles, we know how to de-escalate conflict.  We know how to prevent or pacify runaway conflict.  One of the main things is listening to understand. 

The Essential Ingredients of Peace
Perhaps the most important thing in de-escalating a conflict with someone is understanding them rather than fighting them.  Almost no one changes until they feel heard.  The other person needs to believe you understand them – even as they realize you may disagree – before they will hear you.  

We’ve learned that one of the best ways to listen and understand what someone is saying is to mirror them back – in empathy to repeat what they’ve said and ask if you are understanding them correctly.  It changes the tone of the conversation.  Everyone – all of us – needs to be understood.  It feels really good to have someone listening to you.  

It’s a paradox in a conflict almost like a game of chicken: Who’s going to dare to listen first?  

Good listening requires us to empathetically imagine the pain or hurt or perspective of the other person who’s causing our distress – spouses, partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, others – and to consider how we might be causing them distress.   

Perfect Harmony
True love involves a heart-felt empathy and compassion for your partner.  And compassion and empathy always make for peace.  Try it … you might like it.  There’s a verse in Holy Scripture that says: “…above all put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col.3:14)


Dr. Lehenbauer is a certified Imago Relationship Therapist, also trained in Discernment Counseling, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing, EMDR, and other therapy modes for anxiety and depression. He counsels adults and couples.  For an appointment with any of our counselors or for more information, call LCC at 1-800-317-1173 or e-mail us at For safety, all sessions are currently provided using a secure, HIPAA compliant virtual video and/or audio platform.

This article is partially adapted from William Doherty & Shauna Fenske, “De-escalating Disputes,” reviewing Amanda Ripley, High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out (NY: Simon & Schusster, 2021), Psychotherapy Networker, 6-7,2022, pp. 65-67.