hat if I were to tell you that arguing with your spouse is a good thing? Would you think I was crazy? I’m sure a lot of you would say, “YES!”
Believe it or not, arguments, when handled well, can actually enrich relationships. Working through disagreements in a respectful way fights for your marriage rather than your own personal gain. Fighting with honor and respect builds trust.
Conflict in marriage is inevitable. We are different human beings with different thought processes and different communication styles. Let me say that again: Conflict is inevitable. Every marriage has conflict. Those couples that handle it well grow closer to each other. We have to acknowledge this and be proactive about dealing with it.
But what about calling everyone to live at peace?
The bible does call us to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18), but that doesn’t mean we shy away from conflict or anger. There were plenty of times in the bible when Jesus had a conflict with others and felt anger (like when He made a whip out of cords and drove the moneychangers out of the temple in). but Jesus always handled conflict with righteousness. True biblical peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of righteousness. To live at peace with our spouse means leaning into the conflict and uncomfortable conversations to come to a greater understanding of one another. Peace comes from fighting WELL with our spouses.
But how do we do that?
- Seek to listen and understand, rather than to speak and be heard
- Be Respectful
- Don’t run away
- Admit where you’re wrong and ask for forgiveness
- Don’t assume you’re right
- Shift your perspective
- Seek the context
- Focus on feelings
- Validate emotions
- Stop and pray
- Don’t give up
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Put your need to prove yourself right aside and focus on your spouse’s thoughts and feelings. This can be difficult, but remember that you are both on the same side. Our need to be right should never trump seeking to understand our spouse.
Be aware of your tone of voice and body language. We can so easily speak volumes of disrespect, without a word, through our tone and rolling of our eyes, cracking of our knuckles, clenching of our jaw, etc. Now, hear me, I am not great at this one and am a work in progress here.
Keep your voice calm and watch your words. Raising your voice, saying hurtful things, or cursing in the midst of a fight will only bring more anger and tension. These things have a way of creating more distance and making a fight last longer. These add fuel to the fire. Rather than being able to focus on the main issue, our attention is brought to HOW the argument isn’t being handled well. So, not only do you have to deal with the actual issue, you’re going to have to deal with the pile of hurt added. By being respectful, it’s a lot easier to keep focused on the original issue and this helps us to resolve the conflict much more quickly without the distraction of added hurt.
Even though a conversation might be uncomfortable, allow yourself to sit in that uncomfortable place. Choose to work through the conflict. Choose to voice your feelings and hear where your spouse is.
Avoiding will solve nothing, and builds resentment. Resentment can destroy a marriage. Resist the urge to ignore the conflict, and by doing so, avoid building resentment.
This is probably THE MOST important step on this list. Constantly check in with yourself and admit where you’ve been wrong. Rather than just saying “I’m sorry”, ask for forgiveness as well. Asking for forgiveness acknowledges the hurt you caused your partner and provides deeper healing. “I’m sorry” is quick and flippant or meaningless, whereas “Will you forgive me?” takes away any semblance of pride and acknowledges understanding of the hurt caused. Asking for forgiveness says “I love you more than my pride”. It also has an incredible way of disarming anger.
It’s important to note that when asked for forgiveness, the answer should be “yes” (Matthew 18:21-22). We need to get our hearts in the right place to forgive.
Dress yourself with humility (1 Peter 5:5). You may not be right and you may have a misunderstanding of the situation. Be willing to see another perspective and shift your thought process.
Your spouse is NOT your enemy, they are your teammate. You should try to never fight against your spouse. Shift your perspective and choose to fight as a team against the problem. While you may not see eye to eye on something, you are still seeking to find a solution that you are both ok with. Resolving the problem should be your sole focus.
There have been quite a few times that Adam and I have gotten into a fight where we were taking out the stress from another situation on one another. This isn’t always the case–there are times when we have legitimate reasons for being frustrated with one another. However, if we are aware of our own stress and where our spouse may be stressed, we can more easily avoid conflict. Adam and I will sometimes say to each other “Hey, your reaction here didn’t seem to match the offense–is something else going on?” Now, we need to say this with gentleness, but it helps our spouse to check in with themselves to see if there is other stress or hurt contributing to their feelings.
Rather than blaming your spouse for a particular event, talk about your feelings surrounding the event. Try “I feel _______ when you ______” or “I feel _______ when _______ happened”. When we focus on our feelings, we share our hearts. Feelings are much easier to work with than blame.
Validate your spouse’s emotions by letting them know that you understand what they are feeling. Most of the time, we all just want to feel truly understood. We want to feel like our spouse understands where we are hurting and is responding with gentleness and care.
If you find that you are struggling to work through an argument, stop and pray that God would bring clarity to the situation. Pray that you would be able to communicate in a way that would honor one another. Pray that you would be able to truly understand where your spouse is coming from.
If you feel unresolved about a conflict, keep working at it. If you give up or think that it isn’t worth it to continue, those unresolved feelings will come back, and they will come back stronger. Don’t allow unresolved conflict to become a wedge between you and your spouse. If you have worked on a conflict for a few days with no resolve, it might be time to see a counselor. We all get stuck sometimes, there is no shame in asking for help. Choosing to go see a counselor is simply choosing your spouse over pride.
Agree that either one of you can set up an appointment with a counselor, for any reason, and the other one will show up every time.
Ultimately if you fight matters much less that how you fight.
Remember that this is a learning process. You won’t get it right all the time. Nobody does. Sometimes, we just mess it up. That’s okay. Have grace for your spouse and have grace for yourself. You’re committed to each other “til death do you part”, so there is plenty of time to learn and grow! As we handle disagreements with each other with love and respect, we create the deep levels of trust and security that are necessary for a strong marriage.
What other tips do you have for fighting well with your spouse? Share with us in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!