“Communication is key”
“Seek to understand, not to be understood”
“Don’t go to bed angry”
“Talk to your spouse in a more loving way than you talk to anyone else”
“Happy wife happy life”
“Remember, you’re on the same team”
Jer and I have heard these cheesy (but true) pieces of marriage advice hundreds of times, but we still fight. As the country song goes….sometimes, “I just wanna be mad for a while.”
It doesn’t help that Jeremy and I are both very strong-willed, stubborn, and argumentative to a fault. Majority of our fights are initiated by playing devil’s advocate with one another, and ending up in full blown brawl, arguing a point we don’t necessarily even side with!
It’s both comical and ridiculous….
We argue about misinterpreted expectations, our in-laws, lack of respect, who did what, feeling undervalued, feeling unloved, the words we say, plans, perspectives, household chores, financial decisions, career decisions, sex, driving directions, and even the temperature in our house…
Needless to say, the whole “becoming one” thing is a journey…
Typically, husbands and wives have different upbringings, agendas, priorities, ideas on how to spend money, and perspective on work. Then, all of the sudden, you form a unit.
Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
Mark 10:8, “and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
During our wedding ceremony, the officiate explained how our wedding day signified the commitment to our vows, and our “becoming one.” However, I did not immediately become “one” with Jer in all things on that day… I equate the oneness that occurs on the wedding day, to the oneness that occurs when you choose to follow Jesus. Yes, you choose to follow Jesus on a specific day, but you also choose to follow Jesus every single day. The same is true in marriage. Becoming one with your spouse is both a moment and a daily choice.
But because oneness is a constant struggle, fighting is practically inevitable. It’s not a matter of if you will fight, but when. And I can only imagine (as I have observed from my own parents) that it becomes even more inevitable with children…
So, if we are going to fight, how do we fight fair?
What parameters can we set, so that our fighting is healthy and productive, rather than harmful and destructive?
During our season of engagement, Jeremy and I outlined 10 rules for fighting fair. And boy did we need them then…(we had a rough engagement) We drew inspiration for these rules from the Bible, our pre-marital counselors, and from learning them the hard way.
1. Don’t fight in public
Seriously, don’t do it. Fighting in public usually escalates a fight. Both people become self-conscious about how the fight looks to family, friends, or strangers, which makes the situation more about the fight, and less above resolving the issue… For us, fighting in public just causes us to fight even more in private. We established this rule so that we would resolve our issues in a safe and private space. When we are alone, we can be honest, vulnerable, detailed, and specific (This rule was inspired by Matthew 18:15) Not to mention, waiting to discuss issues and frustrations in private, has prevented us from countless potential “night ruined” experiences.
2. Don’t go to bed fighting, and always sleep in the same bed
We’ve all heard it before, “Don’t go to bed angry.” This quote comes from Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, but don’t sin — don’t let the sun go down before you have dealt with the cause of your anger” Basically, don’t go to bed mad at each other. But I want to offer one exception to this rule… If it is 2:00 a.m., and you haven’t solved your issue by then, you’re probably not going to solve it by 3:00 a.m…. Go to sleep, and resolve it in the morning (not weeks later when it blows up in your face again).
Choose to hash out your disputes at a time when you can both be alert and focused, and in a place that is a neutral location (not an office, bedroom ect). Jer and I decided that we would keep our bedroom a “fight free” zone. This is so that we associate our bedroom with love, encouragement, joy, intimacy, and connectedness. We choose to take our arguments and conflict resolution process to the kitchen, living room, or garage. Also, don’t ever go sleep in the living room, or at a friend’s house just because your mad. Always sleep in the same bed.
3. Have cooling off periods to avoid yelling, interrupting, or retaliation
Try not to overreact. Yelling, and retaliation are usually forms of overreacting. They are rarely helpful or productive. Yelling, interrupting, and retaliation, typically causes the person you are lashing out at to shut down. The volume of your voice does not increase the validity of your argument. Colossians 3:8 says, “But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth.”
Yelling, interrupting and retaliating make it very difficult for reconciliation to transpire. It’s important to consider whether you are responding or reacting. Your spouse is more likely to see your viewpoint if it is a response to a frustrating or hurtful situation. Reacting usually comes from a defensive heart, and it can cause the fight to intensify, as opposed to subside. Allowing for cooling off periods offers each person some time to organize their thoughts. This speeds up the resolution process because both of you will be ready to respond, and less likely to react. Walking away from an issue and then coming back to it can also help each of you to articulate more clearly, while staying calm and focused on reconciliation.
4. Eliminate “always” and “never”
These types of accusations will only lead your spouse to focus on defending themselves, instead of seeking to understand you. Words like; always, never, only, ever, just, and other absolute words, cause fights to escalate unnecessarily… (also – the “D” word is absolutely off limits) In the moment, we use these words to get a point across. We let our strongest desire (getting a point across) override our deepest desire (a thriving marriage that is Beating50Percent). Matthew 12:36-37 says, “ I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Words are powerful, and they can be extremely destructive, choose them wisely.
“You always” and “you never” statements, are usually the tipping point of an escalated issue. They prevent communication regarding that issue from productively progressing. Instead, these words promote defensiveness, retaliation, and chaos in any relationship, but especially in marriage.
5. Seek a resolution over a compromise
Be clear, honest, and specific about the root of the issue. Vague answers don’t help to find a permanent solution, which is what you both should be looking for. You can’t just say, “You’re so disrespectful,” or, “You never listen.” These statements create drama and prevent resolve. It’s better to explain why you feel disrespected, or why you feel like they aren’t listening.
For example, “Your tone of voice feels disrespectful to me when we are with other people.” Or, “It feels like you aren’t listening to be because your body language suggests otherwise.”
It’s also important to deal with one issue at a time. If you have an accumulation of issues to resolve, put them on a future agenda, or commit to resolving each one, before moving on to the next. Avoid stockpiling dozens of complaints or frustrations, and then dumping them on your spouse all at once… Seeking a resolution requires both of you to hear each other out, apologize/forgive, and establish a solution to keep the same fight from reoccurring. Compromise is only a temporary fix. Seeking resolve requires more effort and time, but it worth “fighting” for if you want to build a thriving marriage. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
6. Don’t drink
We aren’t saying don’t ever drink. Just don’t drink while you are fighting or trying to resolve an issue. This one is pretty simple and obvious… Drinking makes you more emotional, sensitive, angry, disrespectful ect. and so the probability of overreacting heightens. (Proverbs 20:1) Overreaction is bad enough sober, but when you add a few beers to the mix it’s a recipe for fighting. Overreacting can also create its own fight… Just consider respectfully seeking to resolve the issue in the morning. Before you initiate a potential fight (even if your aim is to quickly resolve) consider the given circumstances. Similar to fighting in bed at 2:00 a.m., it’s probably not going to end well.
7. Hold hands and remind each other you are on the same team
You know that point in the fight where it is about to get bad… stop right there, grab his/her hand, and then say these six words, “we are on the same team.” This is one of the most effective bomb diffusers in our marriage. It is really hard to be mad at each other when you are holding hands. It just is, try it. After reading this, you will probably think about trying it the next time you are in a fight with your spouse, but pride will seek to prevent you. Don’t let it! Be the one that is willing to reach over. In our marriage, when Jeremy reaches over to grab my hand during a fight, it immediately calms me down and reminds me that we are on the same team (without him even having to say it). Remembering that you’re on the same team is crucial. Don’t let your circumstances convince you to believe that you are opponents. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peacefully with all men.” Do your part to build the peace, grab their hand.
8. Don’t vent to your mom, best friend, OR Facebook…
The motive behind this is likely drama. Avoid it completely. If you are truly seeking to resolve an issue in your marriage, this will only be a hindrance to your efforts. As great as your mom and best friend are, they are not the people you should go complaining to about your husband or wife (in fact, you shouldn’t complain about your husband or wife in general…). Keep your fights to yourself. I promise you that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat do not need to know about them…Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish by doing this?” Chances are, you want to make them out to be the bad guy, and you out to be a saint. In reality, you come across as disrespectful, and out of line. Your spouse is going to be far less willing to be vulnerable, and transparent in future fights because they won’t be able to trust your confidentiality.
9. Pray about it more than you talk about it
I’ve found this to be a convicting truth for most… Especially when it comes to big decisions, hurts, struggles, losses, and fights within marriage. We are so quick to talk about the things we are going through, to dissect them, to understand them, and even to resolve them… but in our efforts, we procrastinate prayer. Oh how we are missing out on the glory and evidence of God that would be revealed to us if only we, “Prayed about it more than we talked about it.” The next time you are about to sit down and have a hard conversation with your spouse, begin with prayer. Prayer is the thing that has the most power to transform your marriage and “fix the broken pieces.” Pray together. Hold hands. Go for a prayer walk. Call each other randomly right now and pray. Be more willing to pray than you are to speak.
10. Establish your own rules for fighting fair
We realize that our 10 rules for fighting fair might not be the same for you. We encourage you to sit down with your spouse and create your own boundaries for healthy fighting. Establishing rules for “fighting fair” will expedite reconciliation, build the peace, and cultivate a marriage marked by Beating50Percent.
Among these rules, there is one more action we take to prevent fights from occurring in the first place. This isn’t so much a rule, as it is a rhythm… and we call this rhythm our “Navigator’s Council.” Our Navigator’s Council essentially puts out the fire before it becomes a destructive flame. Each week we ask each other six simple questions, record our answers in a journal, and end our time in prayer. We call it our Navigator’s Council, which you can read more about >>HERE<< One of these six questions allows us discuss issues, frustrations, disagreements, sin, conflict, and hurt, in a safe space. The question is: “Is there any unconfessed sin, unresolved conflict, hurt, or anything that has gone unsaid and needs to be brought to the light?” Asking this question every Sunday, separates our conflict from the emotional heat of the moment.
If there is one of these rules that stands out to you, or has been helpful in your own marriage, we would love to hear about it in the comments below! What are your rules for “fighting fair?” We would love to hear and share!
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