Guest post by Tim & Christine Willard
Tis the season, for fighting with the ones you love. We’re not trying to be cynical. But let’s be honest. Who hasn’t endured a beautiful car-ride-trip spat to grandmother’s house over the holidays?
Confrontation is tough in any relationship. It’s inevitable. It’s how we deal with the confrontation that matters the most. So, after several discussions on the matter, and maybe one or two confrontations, we came up with our “7 Simple Rules to Marriage Fighting.”
#7. Remember, you’re not 15 years old.
The first rule to marriage fighting is to remember you’re an adult. That’s right. You’re not in middle school anymore, so try not to whine like an adolescent in puberty (apologies to all adolescents reading this; we won’t tell your parents).
The first rule to marriage fighting is to remember you’re an adult.
In middle school the first tactic was to half-cry and get defensive. Placing blame without thinking. Finger-pointing and accusations.
These are all thoughtless. Don’t do them. You’ll just incite more arguing and loud embarrassing fighting. And yes, the neighbors can hear you.
It’s okay to start over in a fight, as long as you’re both in agreement. Otherwise, you’ll add more fuel to your fighting fire. If you do find yourself in middle school, ask your spouse if it’s okay take a break. Go outside, get a breath of air. Return and engage with a clear head.
#6. No Stomping Off
“Oh I don’t stomp off. I’d never …”
Wait. Yes you do.
Have you left an argument early? Walked out in the middle of your spouse’s rant? Or turned your back on your spouse and opened the refrigerator or slammed a door for no reason? Remembered you have to go get groceries?
That’s stomping off. Usually, three-year olds do it. But remember, you’re an adult. (See above!)
Instead, try this. Repeat after me: I’m an adult and adults don’t stomp off. They respect others. They listen. They stay in the room during a confrontation or “discussion.”
I’m an adult and adults don’t stomp off. They respect others. They listen.
It’s a simple rule, much like the preceding one. We put it here as a reminder mainly to ourselves. Stay put and listen. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. You might not agree with or like what that person across from you has to say, but they deserve your respect, honor, and love.
#5. Practice Becoming Unoffendable
It doesn’t take much to offend these days. We are a generation who can find a nuance in just about anything. Marriage is the perfect stomping ground (see what we did there?) to rant our offense.
We analyze every spoken word. We parse every action taken. Even body language becomes an offense. How tiresome!
A simple prayer I (Chris) am bringing to our marriage is: “Lord, help me to become unoffendable.”
I choose joy.
It’s not hard to become unoffendable when I consider the numerous offenses Christ has graciously overlooked and bore on my account.
It’s not hard to become unoffendable when I consider the numerous offenses Christ has graciously overlooked and born on my own account.
We can choose to be a fool, or we can choose to be prudent. So what will it be? We choose to take the path of the wise, to become unoffendable, to keep our mouths shut and our ears open.
#4. Speak Words of Life or Mind What You Say
In the book of Psalms, written at a time when violence and cruelty were the lay of the land and paganism was in its rawest form, the sin the Psalmist most often mentions is that sin which comes out of the mouth.
Our talk. Our tongue. It is a world of fire.
If our talk reflects the overflow of our hearts, which it does, then we need to mind what we say. If my heart is offended, then it won’t take long for spewing to come forth.
And that spewing boils out like hot lava waiting to devour everything in its path, including our spouses.
#3. Recover the Art of Overlooking
This rule connects nicely with #5. In the heat of a fight or “discussion” we love to nit-pick, don’t we? Fights breed nit-picking.
The Teacher in Proverbs says, “A fool shows his annoyance at once but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” (12:16)
We live in a culture of division. And this division has seeped into the cracks of our marriages.
But remember, unity doesn’t mean sameness.
But remember, unity doesn’t mean sameness.
We may not agree with each other on every parenting issue or money decision. But let’s disagree on the basis of a good argument, not dictatorially or with belittling.
As followers of Christ, we are to try to outdo one another in showing honor. When we honor one another we show our prudence.
#2. Fight Fair
Some things should be off limits.
Fighting fair begins with our love for one another. Inside that love rests our honor and respect for one another. This means we make sure the other person knows we value them.
Fighting fair begins with our love for one another.
You’re going to disagree with your husband or wife. And when you do you’re faced with a decision. Am I going to fight fair? Or win this sucker no matter what the cost.
We must respect one another by remembering our love for one another. Confrontations in marriage will happen. How’s your love and respect level? If it’s ebbing away, schedule a getaway. Rekindle the flame of your love and respect so that your confrontations pass like bad Thanksgiving gas. (Tim wrote that last sentence!)
#1. Attack The Issue Not the Person
And when we say attack, we don’t mean it in a literal sense. It’s a figure of speech.
In today’s America confrontation is all about attacking the person, rather than dealing with the actual issue.
Instead of flying off the handle in a situation and letting our spouse have it, let’s plug in our brains, connect them to our hearts and approach our disagreements with care.
The marriage fight can emerge when we least expect it. Sometimes totally undetected. When this happens it’s easy to resort to name calling (see #7 and #6). When that happens, don’t react. Instead, take a breath, step back, and consider the heart of your spouse and the actual grievance.
Instead, take a breath, step back, and consider the heart of your spouse and the actual grievance.
Always keep in mind that the person in front of you is not a problem. They love you and at the moment they may disagree with you. Separate the issue from the human being you love and have given yourself to forever.
That person in front of you deserves your prudence, your tenderness, and your listening ear. You owe it to them to engage the “discussion” with a level head and a loving posture. Discuss the issue. Don’t tear down the person.
Tim & Christine co-founded The Edges, live somewhere south of Charlotte kind of near Waxhaw, and almost never fight. Really. No, not really.
They’re doing their best raising three daughters (affectionately called The Pixies), their first discipleship responsibility.