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The 7 Simple Rules for Marriage Fighting

The 7 Simple Rules for Marriage Fighting

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? 

Who hasn't shown up for the holiday party after just losing it at the house 30 minutes prior? 

If you haven't, well then, you're awesome. Feel free to pass along this post to your friends who do fight. 

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." 

"But guys, I'm single. I'm clicking somewhere else." Well, we get that. But we also feel like these rules are universal to relationships in general. Well, most of them. So hang with us for a few more scroll-downs. We'll try to make it worth your while. 

We'll go through these rules in ascending order. Because we do feel like some are weighted. You get it. So, let's get to it.

#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). 

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. 

You're an adult, so it's a good idea to act like one. To respond like one. To discuss like one. Sometimes Chris and I get to a point in a heated "discussion" and one of us will ask if we've descended into middle school. If we have, we try and regroup and start over. 

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. 

Guys especially should know when things head into middle school since when most of the time guys are together, if they can't think of anything constructive or deep to talk about they revert to middle school humor. So, ladies, it might be a good idea to ask your beau if he think's you've descended into middle school. If so, regroup.

#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." 

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. 

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You're An Adult

Act Like One

#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!

We need to get over ourselves.

A simple prayer I (Chris) am bringing to our marriage is: “Lord, help me to become unoffendable.”

I want to swim upstream, against this mentality that says, "Everyone's out to get me." I don’t want to air my annoyance like a grand parade because we know what the Proverbs say about a woman scorned.

I choose joy.

It’s not hard to become unoffendable when I consider the numerous offenses Christ has graciously overlooked and born on my own account.

Sometimes my silence helps unify our marriage in a way that the most cleverly crafted word never could.

The offendable spew forth offense, spite, and bitterness. And remember, out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. We tend not to keep our offenses to ourselves. We don’t naturally choose silence. But perhaps we should.

Come to think of it, this idea applies nicely to the current ethos on social media where it seems like everyone feels justified to air their offenses. What is it about our culture that we love to be offended?

But I digress.

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 Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Gilead, she writes, “A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine. Above all, 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.

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Speak Words of Life

Because You Both Deserve It

#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. Raise your hand if you've been in a fight and suddenly realize you have no idea what you're even fighting about because you took a rabbit trail down to the Nit-pickers Ball.

Don't nit-pick. 

The Teacher in Proverbs says, “A fool shows his annoyance at once but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” (12:16)

We have lost the art of overlooking. There is no better place to play the part of a fool than in our marriage. Insults are hard to overlook. Things get personal, quick.

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.

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. Where has the art of a good argument gone?

As followers of the Christ, we are to try to outdo one another in showing one another honor. When we honor one another we show our prudence.

Christ's last words to His disciples took the form of a prayer of unity. Of all the words He could have chosen to leave with them in His final farewell, He prayed this: 

“I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:23) He knew that it’s our unity that will be the catalyst of drawing an unbelieving world to Christ.

There is no better picture of Christ to this world than a unified husband and wife. And it makes for a fun holiday season. 

#2. Fight Fair

Some things should be off limits. Like in a boxing match. The referee reminds the fighters: no head-butts, low blows, stop when the bell rings, and all that. 

If you're still reading, then you've gathered that the preceding rules can apply here. No low blows? Also could be stated as, "Don't nit-pick." No head-butts? Also could be stated as, "Don't get offended so easily." 

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.

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 fight the urge to satisfy ourselves. When we give in to this urge at the expense of the one we love, it can get ugly quick.

If fights get out of control and we start head-butting, and we stomp off (see #6) then bitterness can set in. It's right there, crouching at the door of our relationship. We can't let it in.

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!)

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Love & Honor

Ingredients for Passion

#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.

This is a serious problem. Why? Because you don't really have to use your brain to engage with ad hominem arguments that do nothing but elevate the self while tearing down your opponent.

But this is marriage. It's not the public square. Thank God! 

Let's not take cues from the thoughtless rhetoric of the public square. Rather, let's represent the qualities we desire to see in others, like our public officials.

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, a 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. 


*Did we miss any rules? If so, add your rules to our list in the comments below. #FightFair #LoveBig

Photo by josh peterson on Unsplash

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